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Spelman College Reaches $2 Million Match From Philanthropist Jon Stryker for Endowed Chair in Queer Studies Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

Joyce Davis
Associate Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Spelman College
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

Jeffrey Schneider
The Lead PR

Audre Lorde Endowed Chair Spelman CollegeATLANTA (January 12, 2021) -- Spelman College has raised the matching funds to philanthropist Jon Stryker’s gift to fund the first-ever Queer Studies chair at a historically Black college or university. In October of 2019, Stryker kicked off the initiative with a $400,000 donation and will now provide the remaining $1.6 million of his total $2 million gift.

“Jon Stryker’s consistent support of Spelman’s mission has enabled Spelman to take a leadership role in Queer Studies at HBCUs,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “We are grateful for his generous support that continues to elevate the importance of this work in the academic environment.”

This first-ever chair of its kind housed at a historically Black college or university will be named after celebrated poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde and attached to the Comparative Women’s Studies Program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. Lorde was selected by Stryker as the chair’s namesake for her groundbreaking and life-long commitment to civil rights and progressive social change.

Jon Stryker Audre Lorde Gift“In just a year’s time, the stellar team at Spelman has raised millions of dollars to support this important chair,” said Stryker. “Spelman continues to lead on LGBTQ inclusion among HBCUs.”

Lorde had a strong connection to Spelman, speaking on campus on several occasions and donating her personal papers and other artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives, a part of the College’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. The Audre Lorde Papers have been open to scholars since 2009 following a grant from the Arcus Foundation, founded by Stryker, which enabled the papers to be processed and displayed for students, faculty and researchers from around the world.

The selection process for the chair will be determined by a faculty committee, including Comparative Women’s Studies faculty. Advisory Group members include two Queer Studies pioneering scholars who will continue to work with the Spelman team during the implementation process.

In 2011, Spelman’s Women’s Center hosted the Arcus-funded historic summit ‘Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCUs,’ which examined institutional climate issues around diversity, inclusion, gender and sexuality at HBCUs. In 2017, the Women’s Center Founding Director Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., honoring her cousin, instituted the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program, which awards two renewable scholarships for LGBTQ advocates and also has a companion lecture series that explores contemporary issues of race, gender and sexuality. Spelman has also affirmed its acceptance of the transgender community, officially expanding its admission policy to include trans students.

About Jon Stryker
Jon Stryker is the founder and president of the Arcus Foundation, a private, global grant-making organization that supports the advancement of LGBTQ human rights and conservation of the world's great apes. He has supported the foundation's ongoing efforts with more than $500 million in funding since its inception in 2000. Stryker is also a founding board member of the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya, Save the Chimps in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and Greenleaf Trust bank in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He currently serves on the boards of his undergraduate alma mater Kalamazoo College, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Save the Chimps, and is Patron of Nature for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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