Bob Schoenberg, the first and only ever director of the LGBT Center, will be leaving his post this fall after 35 years at Penn.
In a recent interview with Penn Current, Schoenberg said that during his tenure at Penn, he has seen massive change in the LGBTQ climate on campus. Schoenberg first joined the LGBT Center while he was still a graduate student at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice. During this period, he was a part-time member of the staff and the center's first employee. He was later hired full time, after he completed his dissertation.
“The timing feels right to retire now,” Schoenberg said.
When the center first opened in 1982, its small staff worked out of the Student Activities office before moving to its current location in the Carriage House in 2002.
During his career at Penn, Schoenberg has helped make the University home to one of the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses in the country.
He first started working at Penn in 1982 as the Assistant Director of Student Life, and made it a personal mission to advocate for LGBTQ rights on campus. In 1998, he helped to organize initiatives such as Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Awareness days, promoting acceptance of queer students on campus. He also provided consulting for other organizations on campus looking to make their practices more sensitive towards queer students.
“There’s a lot we take for granted that [Schoenberg] has done” said College senior Kai Kornegay, who works at the LGBT center.
Sean Collins, a rising senior in the College and the chair of the Lambda Alliance, a group overseeing the LGBT student groups on campus, agreed.
"The one thing that I think that most of Penn doesn't know is that he brought this center from absolutely nothing to the biggest campus LGBT center in the United States, and so I think that a lot of Penn students don't appreciate the work that he did in the first thirty years of service," Collins pointed out.
2017 College graduate Brittany Brown, who also used to work at the LGBT center, highlighted Schoenberg's efforts in pushing for an entire building to house LGBTQ students — a move that was largely unprecedented when Schoenberg led it, and is rare even today.
“Penn is one of the only schools in the country that has a dedicated building for LGBTQ students, which is pretty unbelievable,” Brown said.
“Bob started this center. That is something that I don’t want us to take for granted. It’s really important for us to remember all that he’s done in really creating a space for queer and trans students," Kornegay added.