May 1 to 7 was Ally Week on Suffield’s campus, an event held annually in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Community members were encouraged to show their support by wearing a specific color each day [red on Monday, orange & yellow on Tuesday, green on Wednesday, etc.] and there were activities each evening promoted by the GSA—from cookie decorating to an intersectionality conference to a visit from professional strongman Rob Kearney, the only openly gay strongman in the world.
About 30 students and faculty—a mix of GSA members, serious athletes/coaches, and people with a general interest—attended Rob’s event. He shared his story of being one of the strongest men on the planet—he is currently ranked 5th in terms of strongest men and is competing in the World’s Strongest Man Competition in two weeks—and also about being homosexual in a sport that is defined by its masculinity. He was able to weave his athletic journey and his coming out story seamlessly, creating a completely comfortable atmosphere and answering questions about training, dorm life, how he came out, and more. He left the attendees with the advice to be comfortable in their own skin, be proud of who they are, and set small achievable goals. Rob is a Springfield College graduate and certified athletic trainer. He interned in Suffield’s athletic training department and worked at Deerfield and Williston Northampton.
Katya Yurkovskaya ’24 attended the event and said, “I appreciated how honest and thorough he was with his story and in answering our questions. I’m very grateful that he was able to speak during the Ally Week and that all kinds of people attended the event. I liked how he was able to engage students who were interested in the LGBTQ+ part of his story.” Nate Morrin ’23 said, “It was super awesome seeing not only GSA members attend but others who are passionate about training, working out, and strength conditioning. It was really a diverse crowd which made me really appreciate the community at Suffield even more. In addition, seeing Rob and his husband was inspiring to me. The way they talked about each other made me feel so accepted and hopeful for my own future. I can’t not talk about how interesting Rob was. He was so articulate and bestowed upon everyone valuable advice in almost every aspect of life.” Campbell White ’22 said, “Hearing Rob Kearney’s story was very inspirational! Hearing about Rob’s challenges with coming out and how he has grown as an individual was amazing. He has had a very successful career in the World’s Strongest Man arena. Even since announcing his sexual identity as party of the LGBTQ community, he has not let anyone or anything get in the way of his success.”