Spelman College, the global leader in the liberal arts education of Black women, today announced the creation of a chair in Queer Studies backed by a matching gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker of up to $2 million. This first-ever chair of its kind housed at a historically Black college or university will be named after celebrated poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde and attached to the Comparative Women’s Studies Program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. Spelman will immediately implement a fundraising campaign to raise $2 million, which will be matched by a $2 million gift from Stryker.
“Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs,” said Stryker. “By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world.”
“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,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “A chaired professorship in Queer Studies enables the College to build on one of its strengths and that is the 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. 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.”
Lorde was selected by Stryker as the chair’s namesake for her groundbreaking and life-long commitment to civil rights and progressive social change. She had a strong connection to Spelman, speaking on campus on several occasions and donating her personal papers and other artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives, a part of the College’s Women’s Center. The Audre Lorde Papers have been open to scholars since 2009 following a grant from the Arcus Foundation, founded by Stryker, which enabled the papers to be processed and displayed for students, faculty, and researchers from around the world.