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National Leader in AIDS Education, Alumnus Ron Simmons Honored with UAlbany Harvey Milk Award

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150



President/CEO Ron Simmons, Us Helping Us

President/CEO of Us Helping Us Ron Simmons is being honored at UAlbany's Lavender Graduation for his leadership and contributions to the diverse community.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 12, 2010) -- UAlbany alumnus Ron Simmons, a national leader in AIDS education and outreach, will receive the Harvey Milk Award at the University at Albany’s second annual Lavender Graduation on May 14 and deliver the keynote speech at the 1 p.m. ceremony.

Human rights icon Harvey Milk, a 1951 graduate of UAlbany, was the first openly gay elected official in the U.S. whose life became the basis for both documentary and biopic Oscar-winning films. Milk is revered nationally and globally as a pioneer of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) civil rights movement and for his exceptional leadership and commitment to equality.

Simmons is being honored by the Student Association’s Gender and Sexuality Concerns Office for his leadership and contributions to the diverse community.

“I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award, named after someone as historic and heroic as Harvey Milk. Being a student at UAlbany changed my life. The education I received and experiences of that time and place are the reasons I can be the openly proud black gay man I am today,” said Simmons.

Simmons is president/CEO of Us Helping Us (UHU), one of the largest black non-profit AIDS organizations. In the early 90s, his lifelong interest in holistic health led to his involvement with UHU, a support group for HIV-positive black gay men. Simmons put UHU on a firmer financial footing and secured its first independent location. In 1997, he led the group to embrace a new role in HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

Simmons is a member of the HIV Prevention Community Planning Group and the Board of Medicine.  He received a B.A. ’72 in Afro-American Studies, an M.A. ’78 in African History, and an M.S. ’79 in Educational Communications from UAlbany.  He received his Ph.D. in Mass Communications from Howard University and served on the faculty of the Howard University School of Communications for 12 years.

The Lavender Graduation -- sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Success, the Student Association’s Gender & Sexuality Concerns Office, Undergraduate Education, and Student Success -- is an annual celebration for Graduating LGBTQ students at the University at Albany. During the ceremony undergraduates and graduates, as well as returning alumni, are presented with a rainbow tassel acknowledging their identity and contributions to the diverse university community. The Lavender Graduation is accompanied by an awards ceremony celebrating faculty, staff, students and alumni who have contributed greatly to the LGBTQ Community.

2010 award recipients also include:

  • OUT-Standing Faculty/Staff Award ~ Nancy Belowich-Negron, Director of Disability Resource Center
  • Amazing Ally Award ~ University Counseling Center
  • The Dreamer Achiever Award ~ Gamma Rho Lambda National Society
  • Departmental Diversity Award ~ Multicultural Student Success
  • Volunteer Award ~ Eric Keenaghan
  • Unsung Hero Award ~ Steve Seidman and Arlene Istar Lev
  • Gender Warrior Award ~ Department of Residential Life

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