The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Life held the annual Emory Pride awards Thursday night, honoring the service of students, alumni and Emory employees to the LGBT community.

Emory Pride, Emory’s LGBT and ally organization, celebrated its 21st year of the annual award ceremony, which started at 7 p.m., at the Miller Ward Alumni House.

“A safe LGBT community is necessary in a diverse and open community such as Emory’s,” said Carlton Mackey (’05T), assistant director of ethics and leadership at the Center for Ethics.

The ceremony began with a performance of The Beatles’ “In My Life” by the a cappella group AHANA.

Director of the Office of LGBT Life Michael Shutt additionally praised Emory students who have been instrumental in Emory Pride and LGBT Life.

“I am proud of the community of engagement between students and alumni,” Shutt said.

This year’s award winners included Robert Lewis (’87OX, ’89C) for Alum of the Year; College sophomore Carl Kroeger, who received the GALA Leadership Award; and J. Michael Aycock (’66OX, ’69C, ’82G).

Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair was named Outstanding Ally of the Year. Moreover, Rev. Joshua Noblitt (’04T) received the Keeping the Faith award, and Emory Healthcare’s Director of Care Transformation Hal Jones earned the Outstanding Transgender Advocate Award for his work in increased health-care inclusion for LGBT patients.

In addition, College junior William Ezor was named Pride Member of the Year. Ezor said he tries to do whatever he can to help the organization’s executive board create a safe and open environment for the LGBT community.

“I want to try to maintain and feed and try to make everyone feel accepted, involved and welcome,” Ezor said. “I was excited to get the award. I love being in Pride. It’s a really great community.”

College senior Shu Wen Ong, one of Emory Pride’s presidents, received the award for Fierce Leadership of the Year.

Ong remarked that it was a “deep honor” to receive the award, given that “there are so many individuals who do such great work for LGBTQ issues on campus.”

“The awards help build a deeper sense of community between faculty, students and alums,” she said.

After all the awards were distributed, lavender diplomas and rainbow graduation cords were distributed to alumni and undergraduates who will graduate this year.

During the ceremony, Nair reflected on his first eight months working at Emory. He praised the work of Emory Pride, also providing critiques and articulating challenges that face the Emory LGBT community.

“We have not fully realized our aspirational goals,” he said.

However, he remained steadfast in his optimism and welcomed the entire Governor’s Hall to “a new and better Emory.”

A slideshow entitled “The Good, The Bad … The Chicken” also highlighted key events pertaining to LGBT Life in the past year, focusing heavily on the controversy surrounding the Chick-fil-A in Cox Hall on Emory’s campus.

Emory Pride’s prompt response was illustrated in great detail, as were different Pride events such as the Drag Show, volunteering trips and a visit to the recent inauguration of President Obama.

– By Jefferson Sporn

Updated March 1 at 12:55 p.m.