Over 300 students, alumni and faculty gathered on Saturday to celebrate the LGBT Center’s 35 years at Penn under founding director Bob Schoenberg.
At the noon event, the Carriage House, which has housed the center since 2002, was renamed the Robert Schoenberg Carriage House in honor of the former director’s retirement. Penn is one of the few universities in the United States to have a building dedicated to LGBT students on campus.
The building has been “a magnet drawing LGBT students within Penn,” said 1985 College graduate David Goodhand, who, along with Vincent Griski, a 1985 Wharton graduate, donated $2 million in 2000 to renovate the building to house the LGBT Center.
After new LGBT Center Director Erin Cross opened the event, Penn President Amy Gutmann commended Schoenberg's work in making Penn “the most welcoming and supportive university anywhere to its LGBT community.”
Also speaking at the event, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney thanked Penn faculty and students for being “a bastion of honesty, decency and help for each other.”
2008 College graduate Marianne Mondt, one of the tri-chairs for the 35th anniversary planning committee, said that alumni traveled from all over the world, including Canada and Ireland, to attend the event.
“It really shows how much this center and Bob meant to them,” Mondt said.
1971 College graduate Howard Diamond, also a tri-chair for the committee, said he appreciated that Kenney, Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum spoke at the event.
“That’s a major institutional statement in support of the LGBT community at Penn,” he said. “It’s symbolic.”
The LGBT Center at Penn, now one of the largest of its kind in the nation, was first established in 1982. Since then, Schoenberg has led changes in University policy, organized community advocacy initiatives and worked to make campus organizations more inclusive.
Under his leadership, Penn was named one of the most LGBT-friendly universities in the country by nonprofit organization Campus Pride.
College senior Kai Kornegay, another tri-chair for the committee who has worked at the center for four years, described the center as a “home away from home.”
“Erin [Cross] is someone I trust who has already impacted so many people’s lives, including mine,” Kornegay said. “I am excited for her plans for the future of the center.”