McGeorge School of Law’s Lambda Law Students Association celebrates 40-year anniversary

Three men sing and perform in drag

(From left to right) Professors Michael Colatrella, Larry Levine, and Jeff Proske perform during the 2022 Fall Spectacular at McGeorge School of Law. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Chanting and clapping fills the air as students, staff, and faculty alike cheer on their peers and special guest stars, fabulously dressed and impeccably on point, and the laughter and smiles of everyone in attendance is infectious – this is the McGeorge School of Law 2022 Fall Spectacular, hosted by the Lambda Law Students Association. McGeorge’s Fall Spectacular, which celebrated its 11th anniversary in 2022, is a drag show showcasing faculty, student, and staff performers and their singing, lip-synching, and dancing talents to raise money for the law school’s Jeffrey K. Poilé LGBTQ+ Endowed Memorial Scholarship.

This year, there was special electricity in the air for multiple reasons. Lambda is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the law school is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Poilé Scholarship and reaching the 1-million-dollar milestone for the scholarship.

The Poilé scholarship, established in 2002, is a civil rights scholarship that helps law students with a passion for the civil rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community minimize their student loan debt. The scholarship is named after the life partner of Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Larry Levine. Poilé passed away in 1992. The law school has raised more than $1,100,000 for this endowment since its creation 20 years ago, including $99,495 raised this fall that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Powell Fund.

146 students have received the scholarship since its inception, and it is now the third-largest scholarship fund at the law school.

The landscape of McGeorge has changed quite a bit since Lambda’s founding in 1982. Lambda co-founder Gael Mueller, ‘85, said her experience in law school was that the campus was not supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Even so, she found kinship and connection with a supportive group of friends on campus.

“It was just really wonderful. We had such a small, supportive group of men and women,” Mueller stated. “There were very few women at McGeorge then, very few.” Today, the majority of McGeorge’s students are women and have been for the past three years, with 54% of the fall 2022 entering class identifying as women.

Getting Lambda registered as a student organization wasn’t an easy task back in the mid-1980s, Mueller said. Students were hesitant to get involved in the organization, “not only because of who we were, or what we were doing, but because our politics were obviously very different from most of the people on campus,” Mueller said.

Co-founder Joel Loquvam, ’86, echoed these sentiments, saying that after his experience participating in the Gay Student Alliance at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. as an undergraduate student, going to Sacramento felt like “stepping into a way-back machine.” During his first year on campus, Loquvam got involved with the Women’s Caucus but felt the pull to create a similar organization to the Gay Student Alliance on the McGeorge campus.

Two men embrace

Levine embraces an alumnus at the Poilé Reception in November 2022 at McGeorge School of Law. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

However, both Mueller and Loquvam share the same view of McGeorge and Lambda today: the law school’s support of its LGBTQ+ students is amazing.

“The growth and the support are really phenomenal; that would not have happened 40 years ago,” Loquvam said.

Both Mueller and Loquvam have used their advocacy skills throughout their careers. Mueller practices criminal defense in an effort to support the “disenfranchised and the unprotected.” Loquvam began his career working in employment discrimination matters, but now focuses on estate planning.

Levine has been able to watch the growth of Lambda over the years, having joined the law faculty in 1985 and serving as the faculty advisor for Lambda since 1996.

“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see McGeorge transform itself from an institution that was perceived as very conservative and not welcoming, to what it is now – which is very welcoming of all students – and [being] one of a handful of law schools that have a scholarship – with well over $1 million raised – dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. Lambda is one of the most vibrant registered student organizations on campus and it has been wonderful to be their advisor for decades,” Levine said

Mueller and Loquvam both expressed their hopes for Lambda’s future as it continues to engage with students and the greater Sacramento community.

Loquvam hopes that, “Lambda would be in the forefront of developing legal theories to further protect members of the LGBTQ+ community in the eyes of the law and be involved in advocating for individuals who have not been included in the American family.”

Mueller believes that, “Lambda is now part of the fabric” of the McGeorge campus and community. “Lambda certainly pushed at the envelopes at the time, and it needs to keep doing that,” she said.

McGeorge School of Law is now a welcoming and thriving environment for the many students, staff, and faculty identifying as LGBTQ+, with 15% of the faculty identifying as members of the community. Additionally, an on-campus Center for Inclusion and Diversity has become a drop-in space for all students on the Sacramento campus, fostering kinship, support, and programming that promotes understanding and an atmosphere of inclusion.

The University of the Pacific community — including students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni — believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to the fulfillment of the university’s institutional mission. The university values inclusiveness in learning, curricular and co-curricular programming, campus climate, recruitment, admissions, hiring, and retention.

The McGeorge campus in residential Sacramento fosters a vibrant, supportive, and welcoming community, which celebrates the many definitions of diversity in our student body and community.

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For more information about McGeorge School of Law, visit our website.

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