By AJ Trager
KALAMAZOO – In an upcoming Homecoming event, Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Pride Alumni Association will honor the work and dedication of local LGBT advocates. LGBT and ally alumni of WMU are invited to join together for the Oct. 24 event that will include the presentation of the first ever Community Impact Alumni Award to Kalamazoo resident, River Artz-Iffland.
Artz-Iffland has demonstrated a commitment to LGBT inclusion and advocacy and has created a long-term impact on both the LGBT and Kalamazoo community.
“Her personal information really spoke to being someone who hasn’t fought for the spotlight but has done the hard work towards creating safe spaces and building community. It’s incredible to see and hear the work that River has done,” Jen Hsu, coordinator for the WMU Office of LGBT Student Services, said.
As one of the first coordinators for what is now the WMU Office of LGBT Student Services, Artz-Iffland organized the first Breaking of the Silence event and was integral in fostering a safe space for LGBT students on campus. In addition to her professional contributions, Artz-Iffland has volunteered as an advocate for domestic partnership benefits for city employees and for non-discrimination protections through the One Kalamazoo campaign.
Over the last 30 years, Artz-Iffland has served Kalamazoo in many ways. She was the co-owner of Pandora Books for Women, a woman-centered bookstore, with her partner Diana. She was also an active organizer of Lavender Morning, a lesbian social and support group that started in 1979.
“No single person can change the whole world, but, if we each are brave and take responsibility for what we can do, we’ll eventually get where we want to go,” Artz-Iffland said upon hearing that she had been selected as the 2014 recipient of the Community Impact Alumni Award.
Hsu and the selection committee received numerous nominations but ultimately decided on Artz-Iffland because of her amazing ability to make an impact in individuals lives as well as the community.
The award is chosen on three criteria, beyond being an LGBTA alum of WMU: individual must have made a contribution to the greater community they live and work in as well as WMU, demonstrated commitment to inclusion or the LGBT movement and had a far reaching impact on LGBT issues and social justice initiatives.
“We really wanted to distinguish somebody who identified with the idea of having a commitment to WMU as an institution and to see that ripple out in their communities and with LGBT and social justice initiatives,” Hsu said. “The Homecoming Planning Committee has been hard at work organizing a fun and welcoming alumni event. We’re excited to celebrate our community and acknowledge the tremendous impact River has made on creating an inclusive environment at WMU and in greater Kalamazoo.”
The reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Lee Honors College on WMU campus and will serve specialty crafted drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The event is free and reservations are requested at http://mywmu.com/pridealumni. Complimentary parking is available at the Wesley Foundation lot at 2101 Wilbur Ave. A University Pep Rally will be held at 8 p.m. in Sangren Hall directly following the award ceremony for the 2014 WMU Homecoming Event.