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A Home in the Carriage House

David Goodhand C’85 and Vincent Griski W’85 met at Penn in 1983, began dating, and lived together in Stouffer House as undergraduates. Now they are life partners—financially successful ones at that—and this past fall they returned to announce a $2 million lead gift for a new home for Penn’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center.
    “It was the nurturing environment of Penn almost 20 years ago that brought us to this point today,” said Goodhand during an October ceremony on Wynn Commons. “When I came here as a freshman in the fall of 1981, I never could have imagined this day, an event like this.”
    The LGBT Center, one of the oldest and most active centers of its kind in U.S. higher education, will move from the third floor of 3537 Locust Walk to the Carriage House, which was built in 1877 at 3905 Spruce Street. Renovations are expected to begin next year, with a grand opening in the spring of 2002—the 20th anniversary of the Center.
    Goodhand, a former Microsoft executive who designed Internet products, is retired at age 37. Griski, 36, is a former Wall Street financial analyst and executive and is currently an at-home parent, raising the couple’s two-year-old son. Both are now involved in local and national politics and philanthropy. Their gift opens a $5 million fundraising campaign to complete the restoration of the Carriage House and endow the Center’s programs. (Those include outreach, education, advocacy and networking, and special events and public forums.) The refurbished Carriage House will provide study and meeting space; a multi-media classroom for guest speakers, film screenings and classes; a research library focused on gay issues and themes; office space; student conference rooms; and multi-purpose spaces for the LGBT and larger Penn communities.
    The ceremony was timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day, a project sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign that encourages gays to be open and honest about their sexual orientation. The gift is the first and largest of its kind in the nation to directly benefit an LGBT campus community.
    “We at Penn love to remind ourselves and others that we are the nation’s first university,” said University President Judith Rodin CW’66. “So on this National Coming Out Day, it is altogether fitting that we can proudly and officially proclaim that Penn is the first university in the nation to dedicate a campus building … as the home for a comprehensive campus community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
    In the view of Dr. Larry Gross, the Sol Worth Professor of Communication, the gift and the Center “should serve as a stimulus both to Penn alumni and other universities and their alumni.” While LGBT students and alumni have “long been accorded benign neglect, at best, in most American institutions,” he notes that “Penn’s record is among the best, and this new development signals a move to a new level of support and recognition.”
    In 1982, Bob Schoenberg SW’68 GrS’89 joined Penn as the founding director of the LGBT Center, which then operated part-time. (Schoenberg and the Center went full-time in the early 1990s.) “Penn’s is one of a handful of LGBT centers nationally to have the range of services and programs that we do,” Schoenberg says. “A building dedicated to the LGBT community puts us in a class of our own.”
    Some 300 students are active in the Center’s 10 student-affiliate groups. However, the LGBT student population has not always been met with open arms by other members of the campus community.
    “None of us can or should pretend that the environment at Penn has always been one in which gays and lesbians have felt comfortable, safe and accepted,” noted Provost Robert Barchi Gr’72 M’72 GM’73 at the ceremony. “Individual stories vary, of course, and there have been instances even recently in which hate e-mail is received or a student feels ostracized or threatened by his or her peers because of his or her sexual identity. These moments only argue more strongly for an LGBT Center that can thrive at Penn … No student at Penn need ever feel alone because of his or her sexual orientation.”
    Christopher Nguyen, a fourth-year student in the medical school and former student co-chair of the LGBT Center’s advisory board, expects that the increased visibility of the LGBT’s new location will further enhance the welcoming atmosphere at Penn. “Students who might be questioning their sexuality or [are] still closeted will know that there are resources for them,” he says, while the Center’s prime residential location will “increase the campus’s exposure to LGBT people and their lives, with the result of diminishing the ignorance that comes with the lack of understanding of a minority group.”
    Rodin highlighted this point, and emphasized that the Center is open to the entire campus community. “Truly, we must always strive to be one campus in which we all learn from one another, and resist breaking up into a multitude
of enclaves that isolate us from one another,” she said. “Nonetheless, as long as women and racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities fight an uphill battle for full equality and acceptance, it is vitally important that they have supportive places and organizations that raise awareness and reinforce pride in who
they are.”

—Jennifer Baldino Bonett

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