Tranquil Calley
May 1, 2024

Building a Safety Net

Author: Devlin Smith
May 1, 2024
 Stories of Impact
Photo: Alumna Tranquil Calley established a fund at UCR to support LGBT students and allies in memory of her late son, Kalyn Smith-Tranquil'son, who graduated from UCR in 1981.

Tranquil Calley M.A. ’89 worked closely with the LGBT Resource Center to create the Kalyn Smith-Tranquil’son Memorial Fund in memory of her son Kalyn ’81, a UCR alumnus who passed away in 1994. The fund, established in 2003, provides emergency funding for students who have been cut off financially from their families because of their sexual orientation, gender, perceived gender, or work with or for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

During his time at UCR (when he was known as Colin Smith), Smith-Tranquil’son made his mark on campus through his advocacy for LGBT rights. He was the target of threats and assaults, brought attention to his cause in the pages of the Highlander Newspaper throughout the winter and spring 1981 quarters, and led a march on the chancellor’s office to demand a fair investigation.

“I know if it wasn't for the support of Kalyn's family and the collective support at UCR, my life could be a lot different.”

By being his authentic self, Smith-Tranquil’son connected with his neighbors in the Aberdeen-Inverness Residence Hall. “Kalyn was a vital part of the floor,” recalled Andy Plumley, retired associate vice chancellor for auxiliary services who was Smith-Tranquil’son’s student resident assistant during the 1980-81 academic year. “Kalyn was very much into the drag scene, and so he would go out on weekends, and he would get all dressed up and the floor would say, ‘Wow this is incredible.’”

Kalyn Smith-Tranquil’son (This photo is credited to University of California, Riverside. Scotsman Yearbook.  Riverside: University of California, Riverside, 1980-81.)
Kalyn Smith-Tranquil'son advocated for LGBT rights during his time as a student at UCR. 

It’s fitting that when members of the UCR community gather to enjoy an evening of drag performances, spoken word, and fashion at the Queer Alliance’s annual Dragalicious Drag Ball, they can make donations to support student scholarship and aid funds including the Smith-Tranquil’son fund. Plumley once performed in drag at the Dragalicious Drag Ball to raise money for the fund set up in his former resident’s memory.

Composer Natasha-Jade Merriweather ’23 learned about the fund from their mentor after losing family support in the fall of their senior year. Thanks to the fund, Merriweather was able to find a new place to live so they could complete their degree. “It really solidifies the fact that we’re supposed to be taking care of each other and it’s something that I’ve been very grateful for,” they said. “I’m glad that the fund is still a lasting thing here at UCR, that people are supporting people, so it’s been a huge symbol of validation and support and understanding.”

Nancy Tubbs, who has been director of the LGBT Resource Center since 2000, meets with Smith-Tranquil’son fund applicants to learn about their situation, discover their needs, and figure out how the fund can best help them so they can stay in school. She also refers students to campus departments like Counseling and Psychological Services and the Emergency Crisis Response Team to ensure they have full support during a trying time. “The exciting thing is to know that the student has remained at UCR to get all the support that we are able to provide and, hopefully, has continued on with the journey of their own identity development and their own building of a community,” she said.

Saa’un Bell ’09 is a community organizer who relied on Smith-Tranquil’son funds her senior year to help her secure housing while completing a double major with two minors after her father disowned her. “For many young people that are struggling, often they don’t survive and then they get blamed for not surviving,” she said. “I know if it wasn’t for the support of Kalyn’s family and the collective support at UCR, my life could be a lot different.”


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