October 29, 2019

Dear Spelman Community,

I am pleased to share that Spelman has received a significant gift from a long time supporter to establish an endowed chair in Queer Studies. Named for celebrated poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, this professorship is the first-of-its-kind chair at an HBCU and will be housed in Spelman's Women's Research and Resource Center.

We are grateful to philanthropist and Spelman friend, Jon Stryker, founder and president of The Arcus Foundation, for his generous $2 million matching gift to create the chair. Jon's 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. The chair will teach classes in Queer Studies—allowing Spelman students to concentrate in the subject as part of our Comparative Women’s Studies major—and direct community-wide conversations and advocacy around queer issues.

I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall for her decades of work to advance scholarship related to gender, sexuality and Queer Studies. In addition to Dr. Guy-Sheftall, thanks also go to faculty members
Dr. Cynthia Spence and Dr. Moon Charanian, for their leadership of the Institute for Sexuality and Gender, funded by the Mellon Foundation. The Center, which was established earlier this year, will further the studies of sexuality and gender here on campus, throughout the Atlanta University Center and on HBCU campuses across the country.  

Spearheaded by the Women's Center under the stellar direction of Dr. Guy-Sheftall, a chaired professorship in Queer Studies enables the College to build on its strengths in educational inclusiveness. We are honored to name the chair after the literary luminary and fierce activist, Audre Lorde, who spoke on campus on several occasions and donated her personal papers and other artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives, a part of the Women’s Center.

The Audre Lorde Papers have been open to scholars since 2009 following a grant from Arcus, which supports LGBTQ rights and enabled the papers to be processed and displayed for students, faculty, and researchers from around the world. Arcus has been a consistent contributor to Spelman. In 2011, the Women’s Center hosted the Arcus-funded historic summit ‘Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCUs,’which examined institutional climate issues around diversity, inclusion, gender and sexuality at HBCUs.

Forbes magazine has recognized Spelman's leadership in this piece published today, Billionaire Jon Stryker Donates $2 Million To Spelman College To Create First Ever Queer Studies Chair At An HBCU.

I am continually inspired by the academic innovation at Spelman where scholarly excellence is consistent and celebrated.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College

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