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After dedicating 25 years of service to Penn’s faculty, staff and students, Penn Women’s Center’s Gloria Gay is retiring this spring.

“I was a talker and I always stood up for the underdog,” Gay said of her childhood self. This tendency to advocate for what she thought was right is apparent in her career at Penn.

Gay currently serves as the associate director of the Penn Women’s Center and an adjunct instructor in human sexuality education in the School of Social Policy and Practice. She has taught courses in human sexuality, domestic violence and racism, among others.

Her primary role at Penn has been to foster the growth of PWC and to make it a model for other women’s centers across the country, she said.

She oversees programming and student groups and networks with other support centers in Philadelphia, many of which she helped to establish.

In addition to being an administrator, Gay is also a counselor who speaks to students and faculty about everything from sexual assault to feeling left out.

Her influence spread beyond Penn’s campus and across the world to Kenya, China and Yugoslavia, where she traveled in order to promote conflict resolution and help the women there set up support centers.

“She’s extremely open and giving,” said College sophomore Ruth Hubbard, who first met Gay last fall when she needed assistance in founding Sister Sister, a student group for black women.

Inspired by Gay’s life story, Hubbard made a documentary film about her for a class. “There’s a lot that people don’t know about her,” Hubbard said.

For example, the story of how Gay was accepted into the master’s program at the School of Social Work without applying: one of her friends filled out the forms for her based on her responses because Gay did not believe she would be admitted.

Not only was Gay accepted into the program, but she ended up teaching at the school for 15 years, still keeping in touch with many of her students.

Many of those students at Penn see her as a maternal figure, said College sophomore Courtney Paul, a co-founder of Sister Sister. “She definitely has a place in her heart for the youth at Penn,” she said.

Gay insisted that in addition to being a teacher, she was a student for her entire 25 years at the University.

“I had a wonderful at education here,” she said. “Learning while working is absolutely wonderful.”

Not only did Gay gain knowledge, but she made friends as well — ones that she believes she will keep for a lifetime.

According to Hubbard, there is truth to this belief. “The students that know her will continue to cherish her,” she said.

Gay, who is now 75 years old, said that she is happy to have spent one third of her life at Penn.

“It made me a better person,” she said.

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