On Tuesday, Spelman College announced that they are the first historically black college to create a chair in Queer Studies as a part of the Comparative Women’s Studies Program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. The $2 million initiative was spearheaded by the college and will be backed by a $2 million matching gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker, founder and president of the Arcus Foundation, a private, global grant-making organization that supports the advancement of LGBTQ human rights and conservation of the world’s great apes.
In a statement released by Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman, she said, “A major theme of Spelman’s strategic plan is ‘elevating the Spelman Difference,’ that is creating opportunities to recruit and retain the kind of excellent faculty who are the hallmark of Spelman excellence. A chaired professorship in Queer Studies enables the College to build on one of its strengths and that is Spelman’s educational inclusiveness, spearheaded by the Women’s Research and Resource Center under the stellar direction of Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall. Spelman’s Women’s Center has been and continues to be a pioneering leader in advancing scholarship in the area of Queer Studies.”
When sharing his excitement about being a part of the history the institution is making, Stryker said, “Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs. By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world.”
The endowed chair will be named in honor of civil rights activist, feminist, and world-renowned poet; Audre Lorde.
Lorde was known for her many contributions in advancing the voice of women as a same-gender-loving woman, who was steeped in the lesbian activist movement. Her life-long commitment as a freedom fighter through her work as a poet has moved the nation forward. And for those reasons and more, Spelman chose to name the chair after her.
Lorde’s children, Jonathan Rollins and Beth Lorde Rollins are also excited about their mother’s living legacy and said, “We salute Jon Stryker’s vision and his commitment to Queer Studies, and believe that Spelman is the ideal home for the Audre Lorde Chair in Queer Studies. Our mother was deeply committed to LGBTQ youth and believed passionately in the power of scholarship, which to her meant learning plus excellence. She knew Spelman is a place where that magic happens, which is why she wanted her papers there, and she would be thrilled at this gift.”
In 2017, the college made history and headlines for admitting the first transgender student to their student body. And the college continues to move forward in a progressive direction.
Moreover, President Schmidt Campbell says in confidence, “Jon Stryker’s generous contribution to further his commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and education will allow Spelman students to deepen their understanding around the study of sexuality and gender. We are honored to name the chair after the literary luminary and fierce activist, Audre Lorde.”