In October 2000, the University announced plans for the nation's first sexual and gender minorities community center in a dedicated, on-campus building. The LGBT Center moved into the restored 19th century Carriage House in summer, 2002.
Penn completed interior demolition of the historic structure in fall 2001, and architect Monty Freeman (GFA'76) designed the entire renovation project. General contracting was coordinated by W. G. Hinmen.
Penn alumni David Goodhand (C'85) and Vincent Griski (W'85) provided an unprecedented $2 million gift to Penn to fund the renovations. The pair announced the gift at a National Coming Out Day rally at Penn in October, 2000. Penn President Judith Rodin (CW'66) and Provost Robert Barchi (Gr'72 M'72 GM'73) both spoke at the rally along with several student leaders.
"We hope our gift encourages other LGBT alumni at Penn and elsewhere to reconnect with their alma maters in meaningful ways," Griski said.
What is now Penn's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center began its life tucked away in a corner of the Student Activities office in fall 1982. Its creation followed several disturbing homophobic incidents on campus the year before, including the severe beating of a gay sophomore at the hands of a fellow student. Student leaders and several progressive administrators took action by hiring Bob Schoenberg to work three days a week as a point person for lesbian and gay concerns (there was no mention of bisexual or transgender people at that time).
Over the next few years, Bob's time expanded from three days a week to five, from nine months to twelve. Simultaneously, he stressed the need for more help. The LGBT program had one or two work-study students, but he argued for a second half-time staff person, not only to assist with the volume of work, but also to serve as a female counterpart for Penn's LGBT community. The request was granted and, by 2002, the Center had three full-time staff members.
When the Student Activities office was restructured, the program was moved to 3537 Locust Walk. While leaving the student union building was not Bob's ideal choice, the new space actually ended up being four times larger, and the Center eventually acquired an entire floor of its own.
In October 2000, Penn President Judith Rodin announced a major gift from David Goodhand, C'85 and Vincent Griski, W'85. At the same time, the University committed an entire campus building to become the LGBT Center's home. With this gift and ensuing donations from many alumni and friends, the exterior of the historic (1870s) Carriage House at 3907 Spruce Street was restored and the interior was gutted and redesigned to provide two floors of space for the Center and its affiliated student organizations.
After more than 25 years, we are incredibly proud of the Center's progress and status as an invaluable campus resource. That said, we are constantly working to sponsor additional programs and improve the services we already provide. New organizations are forming and new ideas are always developing at the Center and with our state-of-the-art facility and dedicated community, we can't wait to see what the next 25 years bring.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center enriches the experience and fosters the success of Penn's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. The Center assists faculty, staff, and alumni, particularly in their efforts to serve students. The Center increases the general Penn community's awareness, understanding, and acceptance of its sexual and gender minority members. The primary activities of the Center are outreach and education, supportive services for individuals and campus organizations, including network facilitation, and advocacy for sensitive, inclusive University policies and practices.