Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center was unofficially formed in 1982 when Robert Schoenberg was hired to support LGBT students on campus. In 2021, the LGBT Center has a mission "to enrich the experiences, foster success, celebrate victories, and affirm the existence of Penn's LGBTQ+ undergraduates, professional and graduate students, staff, faculty, and alum using the lenses of social justice and intersectionality." In addition, "through education, support, and advocacy, the Center cultivates a campus climate where all students, regardless of their gender or sexual identity, can live authentically," (LGBT Center website, About Us)
According to information gathered for an exhibit: "Proclaiming Pride: 40 Years of LGBT History at Penn" (box 6, folder 3), LGBT activities began to occur in the early 1970s and Gays at Penn became the first LGBT student organization to be registered with the Office of Student Life, in 1973. The group was supported by Christian Association, Student Health Service, and the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, and the by late 1970s, Gays at Penn evolved into Lesbians and Gays at Penn (LGAP).
In 1975, Gay Peer Counseling, made up of a group of students and community volunteers, was formed to provide support and resources to the LGBT community on campus, and those involved were key among the group that advocated with the University administration to establish an office to support LGBT Penn Students. The early 1980s were filled with homophobic incidents on campus and as a result, in 1982, the University hired Bob Schoenberg, a Philadelphia-area social worker and a 1968 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work, to become the University's Gay and Lesbian Program Advisor. The position was part-time; but Schoenberg became a permanent spokesman for the LGBTQ+ community in the University administration, provided LGBTQ+ students with mentoring and support, and served as the official advisor to Lesbian and Gays at Penn (LGAP).
Despite the 1980s being a hostile time for the LGBTQ+ community at Penn and across the country, the Gay and Lesbian Program at Penn grew. In 1983, Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week (later, B-GLAD [Bisexual Gay Lesbian Awareness Week]; and finally QPenn), an annual celebration of LGBTQ students and identities at Penn, was started. In 1984, a group of Penn alumni created PennGALA (Gay and Lesbian Alumni) and in 1989, Schoenberg was hired as the full-time director of the Program. The Program, employing students through the work-study program, became a vital part of the campus for LGBT students.
On July 1, 1995, the Program for the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community at Penn formally changed its name to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Center. The Center continued to grow with additional full-time staff, including Erin Cross, hired in 1998 and Ninah Harris, hired in 2002. In 1999, the Center changed its name to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center.
Over the years, fundraising for the Center gained importance as the LGBTQ+ population grew; and on National Coming Out Day in 2001, it was announced that two alumni, David Goodhand (C '85) and Vincent Griski (W '85), made a gift to Penn in support of the campus LGBTQ+ community. This gift, along with other gifts from alumni and Center friends, were earmarked to renovate the Carriage House (an 1870s building located at 3907 Spruce Street) as a home for the LGBT Center. The Center had been housed in a number of modest spaces, first in Houston Hall and later at 3537 Locust Walk; but the Carriage House provided space for a library, lounge, computer lab, multiple professional offices, and student activity space. It is considered the "common 'home' for the many diverse LGBT student organizations at Penn" (Carriage House fundraising brochure, box 5, folder 8).
In 2017, Robert Schoenberg retired after serving the LGBTQ+ community at Penn for thirty-five years. At the time of his retirement, he believed that he was probably "just the second or third professional staffer hired to counsel gay students by any college," (Penn Gazette, Nov/Dec 2017, page 35) since Penn is the second oldest LGBTQ+ center in the US. As a result, he was instrumental in providing guidance to other universities and colleges as they formed their own centers; as well as being considered "the trailblazer [for the LGBTQ+ community at Penn, which] would not be where [it] is without him." Erin Cross stepped in as Director of the Center following his retirement.
In 2021, the Center offers a myriad of services and programs focused on support, advocacy, and education and provides a confidential and non-judgmental place in which to embrace and discuss sexuality and gender. For a more detailed history of LGBTQ+ issues at Penn (not specifically related to the LGBT Center), please see documents in Box 6, Folder 3.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center at the University of Pennsylvania records document the creation and development of the LGBT Center and the larger support of the LGBTQ+ community at Penn; the advocacy and influence of Robert Schoenberg within the University of Pennsylvania administration; and the influence of global LGBTQ+ issues at the campus level at Penn and more broadly in academia.
This collection is arranged in eight series: I. Administrative records; II. Events; III. Student and alumni organizations; IV. Student publications and articles about Penn, alumni, etc.; V. Non-Penn organizations and conferences; and VI. Other college and university LGBT programs and centers; VII. LGBTQ+ issues (articles, clippings, media, and resource brochures and flyers); and VIII. John Mosteller papers.
Across the board, this collection provides a picture of a Center that observes and actively participates in both local committees and University-wide activities as well as a geographically wider group of programs; learns from a diverse set of conferences and educational opportunities; and gathers data to support the constantly changing needs of its community. The resulting Center, student groups, and supportive community remains relevant and is considered a vital part of the University of Pennsylvania.
For additional details, please see notes at each series.
Transferred from the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Center at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Material located in Box 8, Folders 2, 19, 20, and 21 were a gift of John Mosteller and relate to Lesbians and Gays at Penn (LGAP), but was a part of the larger LGBT Center transfer. Additional material found in box 8, folder 21 were gifted by Mosteller in 2021.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Hector Kilgoe and Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2021 March 19
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use; however, there are a few folders that are restricted because they contain personally identifiable information. Researchers interested in these files should consult with Kislak Center staff as it may be possible to simply remove the problematic files from the folder prior to research.
Further, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted (largely located in box 19).
The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for cost estimates and ordering.
Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.