LGBT Center gift keeps Penn out front


David Goodhand (C85) and Vincent Griski (W85) left Penn with more than a good education.

They left with each other, and with fond memories of the place where they met a place where they both say they felt comfortable and supported as gay men.

Now, 15 years out, the couple is returning that support in a big way.

On Oct. 11, during the National Coming Out Day rally on Wynn Commons, Goodhand and Griski announced that they were donating $2 million to the University for a new home for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center.

The center, currently housed on the third floor of 3537 Locust Walk, will become the sole occupant of the Carriage House at 3914 Irving Street as a result of the gift. The larger center will have office space for most of Penns lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, as well as expanded library and meeting facilities and a more comfortable lounge.

The gift continues a growing relationship between the couple and Penn one they started because of the role Penn played in their own.

Griski, who transferred to Penn from a school in upstate New York his sophomore year, met Goodhand, a Pennsylvania native, at a dance sponsored by what was then known as Lesbians and Gays at Penn the year Griski arrived on campus.

For Griski, it was an early step on the road to self-awareness. [My freshman year] was a time when I wasnt out at all, even to myself, he said. I spent that year focusing so much on the accomplishment of getting into an Ivy League school that I didnt focus on any personal growth issues.

Once I got to Penn, it was sort of in my face. At that point I was starting to think about dating and socialization and the other things people do at school besides study, and it became clear to me that I was interested in dating men and not women.

He arrived at a campus that had already taken a big step towards recognizing its lesbian and gay students. Goodhand recalled, I believe in 1983, Penn had just hired Bob Schoenberg half-time as a coordinator in the Office of Student Life for gay and lesbian activities. That hiring put Penn out in front.

Schoenberg, now the director of the LGBT Center, says Penn is still out in front. There are only about 40 to 50 universities in the United States to have a funded support center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students, and [our center] is one of the best, he said.

But even in those earlier days, the campus environment was supportive. We lived in Stouffer College House, Goodhand said. (They moved in together in their junior year.) We enjoyed nothing but acceptance and support there. It was a wonderful place.

After leaving that wonderful place, the couple managed to do very well for themselves. David became a designer of Internet products for Microsoft Corporation, and Vincent worked as a financial analyst and vice president of the Goldman, Sachs brokerage firm before joining Microsofts treasury department. They did so well that David retired from Microsoft in his early 30s and Vincent quit his job to raise the son the couple adopted.

So about a decade ago, when the couple sat down to figure out what they would do with the sizable assets they had accumulated over a relatively short time, their thoughts turned to their alma mater. It started with gifts for scholarships, one of which was earmarked for a lesbian, gay or bisexual student. Then the couple focused on ensuring a stronger future for the LGBT Center.

David and Vince said, Make a wish list of everything youd like to see happen, Schoenberg said. I gave them a wish list of everything from a film series to new space, and they started at the top of the list.

Schoenberg hopes to leverage the couples gift to expand the centers hours of operation and to hire a third paid staffer. A gift from Goodhand and Griski allowed the center to hire its second full-time staffer, Erin Cross.

And in keeping with tradition, Goodhand noted that the University administration has been supportive of their efforts every step of the way. Penn wants to do this, and we want to help them do it, he said.

 

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Originally published on October 12, 2000