Bob Schoenberg

Penn LGBT Center

Bob Schoenberg

Is it true that you’re the second person in the country to ever be hired for this type of position at a university?
“I started in this job in the fall of 1982, when I was a doctoral student in what was then called the School of Social Work. … I was probably the second or third person in the country. I was certainly in the first five or six. Now, by a decade, I’m the longest serving in the country.”

What’s the most unique aspect about your workspace here in the carriage house?
“Just having this space is unique. Still, 30-some years after we started, there are only about 220 institutions of higher education across the country that have professionally staffed LGBT centers. And of the ones that have professional staffs, there are only a handful that have as much space—and high-quality space—as what we have.”

Since you started 32 years ago, in what way has your role changed the most?
“I think the most striking thing about how things have changed around here, including what I do, is interactive with how the society we live in has changed. It’s a very different world in the U.S. since 1982, 32 years later. If anyone had said in 1982 that nearly half the states in the U.S. would have approved marriage for same-sex couples, we would have laughed them out of the room. … That doesn’t mean we don’t have a long way to go, because we still do. But as the world has changed, students have changed. Now, we regularly have 16- and 17-year-old high school students visit often with their parents to find out what it would be like to be at Penn as an out LGBT person. That never would have happened when I first started.”