JOHNSON CITY – The Rainbow Alliance of East Tennessee State University (ETSU) held its annual Pride rally in early November with more than 50 students, faculty and staff participating.

Speakers included Dr. Burt C. Bach, vice president and provost for the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, who spoke to the group regarding the importance of diversity.

“I have slowly become a college activist,” said Ashley Hatlfield, president of the ETSU Rainbow Alliance. “This is my first step toward being out. I just thought it was time to do my share of the work.”

The Dr. Patricia Roberston Diversity Leadership Award was presented to Brandon Hutchinson, Tennessee Equality Project board member and immediate past president. Hutchinson spearheaded the initial GLBT organizational efforts at ETSU while he was a student there in 1994. At that time, the Lambda Student Alliance was formed with the support of school officials. They moved forward during his tenure to host ETSU’s first Gay Pride in 1996.

Hutchinson recalled the beginnings of ETSU GLBT activism and a drag show planned to benefit the local HIV/AIDS network. When faced with opposition by administration officials, he called on support from such various groups as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lambda Legal and groups as far away as Greensboro , North Carolina . A fellow Lambda member accompanied him to the office of the Director of Multicultural Affairs with her pen and pad in hand to take notes as he discussed the opposition to the drag benefit with director Laura Terry. Their strategy proved successful and approval was given. The benefit was attended by approximately 120 people and produced $250 for local people with HIV/AIDS. It was the first such benefit ever held on the ETSU campus.

Lea LeFleur, the fist transgendered person to graduate from ETSU, was the event’s key note speaker. LeFleur currently facilitates and provides meeting space for True Selves, a transgender support group in the Tri-Cities area. Further information about the group can be obtained by contacting LeFleur at (423) 957-3635 or by visiting their Yahoo Group Web page at

Dr. Patricia Ann Robertson also received the Dr. Patricia E. Robertson Diversity Leadership Award. The award bears her name, and Robertson was the first recipient of the award in 2005. Her list of accomplishments include being an active member of the original Diversity Task Force in 1999, being instrumental in adding “sexual orientation” to ETSU’s EEOC statement of employment protection, being part of an original five-person team who planned the campus-wide diversity training, working with Lambda to create and implement the Safe Zone program, and being the first Chair of the President’s Council on Cultural Diversity, a position she held for three years.

Barbara can be reached at

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