Spelman College has received a $2 million dollar gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker, to establish its first chair position for a Queer Studies program.
The program was named in honor of legendary queer Black poet, activist, and feminist, Audre Lorde.
“Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs,” Stryker said in a statement. “By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world.”
On Tuesday the institution made the historic announcement, stating that the program will be a part of the larger Comparative Women’s Studies program and Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center.
“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,” Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. said. “We are honored to name the chair after the literary luminary and fierce activist, Audre Lorde.”
The generous donation will match Spelman’s $2 million fundraising campaign, Forbes reports.
Lorde’s son, Jonathan Rollins, said his mother would have been “over the moon” to know she was being honored in such a significant way.
Before Lorde’s death, she ensured that Spelman was accounted for in her will, and donated personal papers and articles to the all-women’s HBCU. She and former Spelman president, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole were also close friends.
The position makes history as the first of its kind at an HBCU, according to the outlet.
“By empowering and educating the next generation, we can help make a future where LGBTQ people have full and equal protections under the law,” said Stryker, who is the founder and president of the Arcus Foundation.
Spelman College is a historically Black college located in Atlanta, GA dedicated to educating women of African descent.
The school has received some push-back in relation to the queer studies program, said Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. She said Spelman and other historically Black schools have faced scrutiny because of religious affiliations and alumni who are not on board with the idea.
In 2017, Spelman changed its admissions criteria. The school opened the door to admit those who identify as females, despite whatever gender was assigned at birth. The Women’s Research and Resource Center saw an opportunity to pursue funding to establish a queer studies faculty position.
The school expects to hire a chair by 2022.