During her very first visit to The Shipley School in 1971, 11-year-old Kathleen “Kathy” Guy Dawson ’78 was immediately struck by the lack of sidewalks. The affluent suburb of Bryn Mawr was a far cry from home for the young girl, who had been born and raised in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood in West Philadelphia.
As the first member of her family to attend private school and the first Black student to join the Class of 1978, Dawson experienced a great divide between her home and school lives. “Living in two worlds, and having to survive in both worlds, I never really felt like I fit into either,” she recalls. “I knew it was important for me to be successful, because if I wasn’t, it would not be good for me or others who would follow.”
Following Shipley, Dawson studied political science at Yale University, where she was actively involved in the Afro-American Cultural Center and interacted with many LGBTQ+ students on campus. At the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she was a member of the Black Law Student Association and the Law School Minority Admissions Committee. Throughout her educational and professional career, Dawson has served as an ally and an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m a straight cisgender woman, so I don’t identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” she explains, “but what I do identify with is wanting to feel like you truly belong and feel safe, supported, and loved because of who you are. I can definitely relate to how people decide to ‘choose’ their family.” And so, in December 2020, when Derrik “Rik” Morris ’80 agreed to launch an alumni affinity group for members and allies of Shipley’s LGBTQ+ community, Dawson—an Alumni Council member and former Trustee—immediately reached out to Morris to lend her support. The two serve as co-chairs of the LGBTQ+ Alumni Association, simultaneously tasked with education and programming, communication, and constituent engagement and outreach efforts.
“The association is all about fitting in, feeling comfortable being your authentic self, and helping to engage the full range of Shipley constituents in a collective desire to positively support this community,” Dawson says. “The fact that I’m co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Alumni Association demonstrates that there’s a way to be able to expand your mind and ability in terms of how you can contribute to the School.”Read about Kathy's LGBTQ+ Alumni Association Co-Chair, Rik Morris '80