Carriage House Dedicated as LGBT Center

The skies were stormy, but the rainbow ribbon stretched across the front of the Carriage House provided a bright spot of color as it awaited cutting on September 26. Although the rain drove the party inside, it did not dampen the spirits of the students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members gathered to celebrate the freshly renovated building’s dedication as the new home of Penn’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center.

The center’s longtime director, Dr. Robert S. Schoenberg SW’68 Gr’89, recalled that the historic Stonewall Riot of June 1969 in New York’s Greenwich Village was “seen by many as the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement,” and added that it “seems just that we should be expressing our community pride in front of—or next to—a beautiful, original 1870s stone wall.”

The Carriage House, “surely the finest space belonging to an LGBT Center anywhere,” is a far cry from the “cubicle in Houston Hall” where he began working on gay and lesbian issues at Penn 20 years ago.

Designed by the New York architectural firm of Belmont Freeman, the renovated building features staff offices, a library, conference rooms, and a large kitchen and meeting area, as well as dedicated space for various student groups. 

“This new space represents the first time that LGBT and allied students will have their own building in which to socialize, plan events, learn, and educate,” said Aviva Moster C’03, co-chair of one such group, ALLIES. “Undergraduate and graduate groups, queer and allied clubs, will now have room to work together and hold joint events,” as well as to pursue outreach and collaboration with other groups on campus and in the community, she said.

Besides providing expanded LGBT programming, the center also expects to make the space available to other campus organizations.

Among the many friends and people whom Schoenberg thanked were the lead donors, Vincent Griski W’85 and David Goodhand C’85; Provost Robert Barchi M’72 Gr’72 GM’73, who committed the building on behalf of the University and also provided resources to expand programming and hours of operation; and President Judith Rodin.

“You may think you can do whatever you want without risk when you become the leader of a prestigious institution like Penn,” Schoenberg said, “but harsh criticism is not uncommon—especially when leaders make bold decisions based on what’s right rather than what will be most readily accepted by everyone.” Rodin’s unhesitating support and close attention to the project, he added, “suggests to me that her conviction that this was the right thing to do for our community and the University is deeply personal and very strong.”

For her part, Rodin lauded Schoenberg as a “pioneer in the campus gay-rights movement” and noted Penn’s two-decade history of being “at the forefront in striving to provide a very safe and welcoming and indeed a nurturing” environment for all members of the campus community.

“We embrace sexual and gender minorities as part of our Penn family and as our partners in learning,” she added. “Today, I think we can say without hyperbole that, thanks to the vision and generosity of Vincent Griski and David Goodhand, Penn is truly the first University to launch what is [in] the Carriage House a comprehensive campus community of concerned lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.”

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