LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Ann Cannon

Title

LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Ann Cannon

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
Sexual minorities -- Nebraska -- Omaha
Interviews
Oral Histories (document genre)

Description

Click here to access the interview, LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Ann Cannon

Ms. Ann Cannon, Omaha business leader and LGBTQ+ advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on December 4, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. Cannon shared information about growing up in a big Catholic family in Omaha, coming out while at Marian High School in the late 1970's, facing homophobia during her three decades in corporate leadership roles, losing her wife and partner of more than 20 years to cancer, and her plans for the future.

Biographical Sketch 

Ms. Ann Cannon, born in Omaha, Nebraska, is a white, lesbian woman, LGBTQ+ advocate, and long-time corporate executive and business leader. Cannon attended Marian High School from 1973-1977, where she played in Nebraska’s first girls state basketball tournament in 1977. After graduating, Cannon attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney (then known as Kearney State College) on a full-ride athletic scholarship, graduating in 1981 with a BS in Business Administration.  

In 1982, Cannon began her 30+ year career in corporate leadership roles, and has worked for National Cash Register Corporation (1982-1986), Commercial Federal Savings and Loan (1986-1989), First Data Resources (1989-1996), Renaissance Worldwide (1996-2003), Prairie Voice Services (2003-2008), Cable Services Group Systems (2008-2011), and Lincoln Financial Group (2013-2016), holding positions such as Senior Project Manager, Director, Vice President and Senior Vice President. From 2005-2008, Cannon was Board Director of the Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross, and since 2011, has served as Board Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands. 

In 2016, Cannon retired to spend time with her wife and partner of more than 20 years, Gay Rich (1963-2018), a long-time Senior Vice President at First Data Corporation. Rich passed away in July 2018 after a long battle with cancer. 

Interview Summary 

Ms. Ann Cannon, Omaha business leader and LGBTQ+ advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on December 4, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. Cannon was born in Omaha, Nebraska in the late 1950’s and grew up as one of seven kids in a large Catholic family. With a father who coached basketball at her elementary school, St Pius X, Cannon was a natural athlete and excelled at sports.  

Cannon began to know she was somehow “different” in her later grade school years, but did not understand what it meant to be gay. By the time she entered 9th grade at Marian High School, Cannon had realized the full extent of her feelings for girls, and came out to her parents in 1976. Both were accepting and supportive of her being gay, but were concerned about her navigating life as a gay teenager in the 1970’s. Cannon was set up for counseling with Sister Barb Markey at Marian High School, who encouraged Cannon to be true to herself, and told her that she was created in the image of God. These overwhelmingly positive reactions from the adults in Cannon’s life were fundamental to her self-acceptance and success. 

Cannon was on Marian's varsity basketball team throughout high school, and played in Nebraska’s first girls state basketball tournament in 1977. After graduating, Cannon attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney (then known as Kearney State College) on a full-ride athletic scholarship, graduating in 1981 with a BS in Business Administration.  

In 1982, Cannon began her 30+ year career in corporate leadership roles, and has worked for National Cash Register Corporation (1982-1986), Commercial Federal Savings and Loan (1986-1989), First Data Resources (1989-1996), Renaissance Worldwide (1996-2003), Prairie Voice Services (2003-2008), Cable Services Group Systems (2008-2011), and Lincoln Financial Group (2013-2016), holding positions such as Senior Project Manager, Director, Vice President and Senior Vice President.  

During her time in the corporate world, Cannon did not feel accepted or treated equally as a gay woman. As recently as 2013, Cannon was uninvited to an event at her company because senior officials did not like that her partner was a woman. She frequently had to use gender neutral pronouns to avoid others knowing about her sexuality, and she felt lonely as a gay woman in corporate America. Despite this, Cannon persevered and used her natural leadership and teamwork skills to continually move up in her career. 

While working for First Data Corporation in 1993, Cannon met her wife and partner of more than 23 years, Gay Rich (1963-2018), who worked as a long-time Senior Vice President at First Data Corporation throughout the 2000’s. Cannon’s family adored Rich, as she was a great cook, loved sports, attending Creighton Bluejays basketball games, and was an all-around wonderful person.  

In 2015, Rich was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment. Because the couple were not married, Cannon was told she may not be able to see Rich after certain treatments and operations. Cannon was horrified, and the couple married shortly after in order to legally protect their relationship. After a long battle with Cannon by her side, Rich passed away in July 2018.  

In this interview, Cannon also discusses her Catholic faith, LGBTQ+ media and representation when she was younger, and her plans for the future. 

Interview Notes 

None

Date

2018 December 4

Creator

Luke Wegener

Publisher

University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries

Relation

LGBTQ+ Oral History Collection finding aid available at https://archives.nebraska.edu/repositories/4/resources/604

Interviewer

Luke Wegener

Interviewee

Ann Cannon

Duration

2:23:11

Files

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Citation

Luke Wegener, “LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Ann Cannon,” Queer Omaha Archives | UNO Libraries, accessed September 18, 2021, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3306.

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