As Remembered by June Licence
April 2, 2001 RE: Nomination of Samuel E. Loliger for Burning Bush Award
On behalf of our whole congregation, I am pleased to nominate Samuel E. Loliger for the Burning Bush Award sponsored by Christians for Justice Action.
Coming from a congregation of activists, this nomination signifies the especial esteem in which Sam is held. It reflects our recognition of the steadfastness and dedication that life-long struggles for justice require.
Sam’s devotion to inclusiveness, fairness and truth is the foundation on which his advocacy lies. Sam is probably best known for his work on behalf of rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in society and in churches. (He served as national coordinator for the United Church Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns for 14 years and was largely responsible for the Open and Affirming [ONA] program of the UCC.) However, his efforts for the achievement of human and civil rights in arenas such as affirmative action, criminal justice, and housing have also spanned decades. I first worked with Sam in the STOP (Stop The Olympic Prison) campaign over twenty years ago. He was then a member of the Mattachine Society in Buffalo—which, at that time, subjected him to some physical danger as well as social and psychological assault—and became the first advocate of rights both for gays and prisoners that I had known. Oppression can be educational in unfair and difficult ways; those who can make connections across race and gender lines immeasurably strengthen our struggles for justice.
Sam’s work on behalf of rights for gay people found him engaged at many levels—e.g., testifying (to the Carey Committee on Discrimination in New York State on Sexual Orientation, as well as to the SUNY Board of Trustees); membership in many groups (Mattachine Society, Gay Professionals, SAGE [Senior Action in Gay Environments], an early leader in GALE [Gay And Lesbian Educators], librarian for Gay Fathers); editorial work for Open Hands Magazine (part of the ecumenical, welcoming church movement) and Gay Theological Journal. Sam was also on the Advisory Board of the WNY Region of the NYS Division of Human Rights; served H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) as President, Chair of the Board, etc., for 12 years; pulled together CHHTR (Coalition to Halt Hate Talk Radio).
Sam was named a “master teacher” at a conference in Austin, Texas, because of his creativity in the classroom. That creativity and love of learning/teaching spanned far more than formal classrooms and organizations. He has always, in my knowing him, been devoted to truth and to honesty in dealing with issues and people. An inherent sweetness and devilish sense of humor enable him to challenge dogma without becoming arrogant. His five years of public school teaching, thirty-six years of teaching at Niagara County Community College (the longest ever!), and guest-lecturing at UB, Daemen College, and at Buffalo State College honed his skills to a fine point. He also manifests his commitment to teaching by his continuous learning—e.g., in classes about homelessness and addictive behavior and nonviolence training.
Nor has Sam avoided administrative and bureaucratic engagement: both in the UCC and in the SUNY system, Sam has actively pursued structures for justice and fairness. At the national level of the UCC, he was among the first to serve on the Council for Health and Welfare Services (CHWS); as well, he served on the Board for Homeland Ministries (BHM) and now its successor, Local Church Ministries (LCM). He chaired the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee for John Thomas, President of the UCC. He was also a member of the Multi-racial, Multi-ethnic (M & M) Task Force on cultural pluralism. At the State UCC level, he has served as Delegate to two Synods, Chair of the Nominating Committee, and Consultant to the Affirmative Action Committee. And at the Local UCC level, he has been a representative to local meetings and the Conference, Secretary/Registrar, Vice-Moderator and Moderator, a part of the Criminal Justice Task Forces (“Welcome Home” and the local STOP campaign).
In the SUNY system, he represented Niagara County Community College (NCCC) on the SUNY Faculty Council, which he also served for three years as Secretary, and as a representative from the SUNY Faculty Council to the SUNY Board of Trustees. On the SUNY Faculty Senate, he served on Affirmative Action and Student Life committees. He also served on the Chancellor’s Task Force on Improving the Quality of Student Life across the University. Sam was the NCCC representative to the WNY Higher Education Consortium Project on Developing the East Side of Buffalo and part of the WNY Church-Campus Coalition.
In each of his many roles, Sam has been the quintessential proleptic, living as though the ideals he seeks are real. He is a weaver of a special sort, bringing together people and places isolated by oppression, by entitlement, or both. By speaking truth to power and by putting sexual orientation at the core of broader human rights challenges, this educated white male has identified ways in which we may all work to emerge, in rather complex ways and often together, from systems of personal and institutionalized disrespect. Often standing alone for political and personal truths, Sam has at once stopped both genocidal policies and quotidian assaults on the self. He has shown us that success is in the world we create while struggling.
We recommend him most highly for your Burning Bush Award.
June E. Licence, Board Co-Chair
Grand Island, NY
January 6, 2014