2020 Newsletters

December 2020

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

We hope that you are closing this chaotic year with peaceful moments that bring you joy. As we reminisce about the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of 2020, we are so appreciative of your time, passion, and commitment to our organization. Your tenacity and patience has helped us become a better organization and make the most of a very virtual 2020. Please take a few minutes reminiscing with us. We can’t wait to work with you on a more successful, social, and inclusive 2021.

This year, GALA-ND/SMC and the ND Alumni Association spent a lot of time learning about each other. We had many conversations about wide ranging topics and were constantly reminded that we are all a part of the same family. While many of you attended our joint Zoom about LGBTQ+ student life, we are most proud of the mentorship program that was launched on Irish Compass to help some of our struggling members through this difficult year. While Dolly told us in her PRIDE tweet how appreciative she is of us, we are really appreciative of all of the allies that we have at ND and also in clubs across the country. We are excited to build on this partnership in the future.


With almost 2,000 members, there are so many stories to hear. Today, we profile a few of our members who have tried to make the most of 2020.

JMO Hits The Road

With 2020 being the year of COVID, lockdowns and social distancing, what better way to highlight member activities but through a “lookback” to the time we could travel beyond the confines of our four walls. John McDonald-O’Lear ’78 and his husband Joel, were recently featured in the November edition of the ND Senior Alumni Golden Domer (sorry John for outing you as a “Senior Alum”). In this fun story, they share their exploits in a 37 ft. trailer traveling around the US & Canada during 2018. Their trip covered over 9,000 miles in 131 days with 55 stops along the way. Think of their trip kind of like a gay version of the Travel with Ted & Ned trip. To read John and Joel’s adventure, go to: Stop To Smell The Roses.

Jack Bergen, Zoom’s Fashionista

On the other side of the coin was a member who embraced 2020, Jack Bergen ’77 and his husband David. Back in March, seeing the handwriting on the wall, Jack came up with the idea of outfitting the entire family with ND masks, well before the ND Bookstore stole Jack’s idea (at a much higher price). Dave, being the talented one in the relationship, quickly got to work using several of the dozens of ND shirts Jack had accumulated over the years (can you count how many you have?). The result was the original COVID ND mask of 2020!




In 2015, GALA launched a fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 in 5 years. We are days and dollars away from achieving this goal. With this achievement, we are able to help defray the cost of attending our alma mater for the annual recipients of the Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas LGBTQ Student Scholarship. THANK YOU to all present and previous donors!

Please help to push us over the top by making a donation at LGBTQ Scholarship.


Diversity & Inclusion

Like many organizations, GALA has taken a serious look at diversity & inclusion and how we can better represent all members of our alumni family. This includes becoming better listeners and looking for opportunities to represent and uplift the entire spectrum in the LGBTQ+ rainbow. We know that we can do more, but in 2020, we took some specific steps toward this goal:

  • Leadership – Two additional individuals were added to the GALA Board of Trustees to better represent younger, female and non-binary alums, Mel LeMay ’10 (see Leadership Spotlight) and Jen Oberhausen ’08
  • Black Lives Matter – In response to the systemic social injustice and violence against black citizens, GALA asked members for ideas to support the BLM movement. While there were many great suggestions, the group voted to financially support BLACK LIVES MATTER – South Bend with our contributions.
  • Name Change – Continuing the work started by the prior officer group, it is critical for our organization’s name to be as inclusive as possible and reflect a more current view of our community. Soon, you will see a membership vote to adopt a new name reflective of our commitment to including everyone in the ND LGBTQ+ Alumni & Friends Community.



This fall, we expanded our board to add more voices that mirror the diversity of our membership. Meet one of our newest board members, Mel LeMay (on left, pictured with their partner Sara, right) and hear how they are surviving the craziness of 2020.



When were you a student at Notre Dame, and how would you describe your time there?
I was a student at ND from 2006-2010, and I would describe my time there as eye opening and (trans)formative. I came out as both queer and nonbinary while at ND, met some of my closest friends, and found a sense of direction and purpose in my life.
What do you miss most and least about the campus experience?
Most: Being just a short walk away from so many of my friends
Least: The rigid enforcement of the gender binary/restrictive norms around gender and sexuality
What’s your favorite thing to do when you return to campus?
Nothing makes me feel more at home on campus than the sights and sounds of the marching band on game day.
What motivated you to run for a GALA board position, and what do you hope to bring to the organization?
GALA is at a crucial transitional point right now and I am both excited to be a part of it and hopeful that my perspective as a trans alum and former GALA officer and my experience as a social worker will be of use and value.
What’s one thing that has helped you mentally survive the isolation of the pandemic era?
Taking daily walks (Yes, even in winter in Buffalo, NY!)

If you share Mel’s passion to use your skills and experiences to improve GALA, let one of the officers or board members know. They can help you through the nomination process. #stongertogether #belikemel

While we wrap up 2020, 2021 (and even 2022) have plans under way.

In 2021, we will hold our vote on the new, more inclusive name. Expect to see more information about this in the near future. Because it is a change to our constitution, paid members vote, so please make sure that you are one of them.

Because we don’t know when social distancing will come to an end, the GALA-ND/SMC Dooley Award celebration will be pushed to Spring 2022. Our reunion and tailgate in-person events will continue when the university allows for such gatherings. In the meantime, expect more virtual events in 2021.

We are so proud of how GALA has persevered this year. Spending time with you (virtually) has made our year better, richer, happier, and a lot less lonely. THANK YOU for your friendship, membership, and support.

Thanks for a great year!

Cheers to 2021,

Your GALA-ND/SMC Officers and Board Members