Harvard University is set to endow a visiting professorship in the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, a position it believes will be the first named, endowed chair on the subject at an American university, according to The New York Times.
The one-semester professorship, made possible by a gift of $1.5 million raised by a network of Harvard alumni, is set to be announced tomorrow as part of the group’s annual commencement dinner.
The post will be named after F.O. Matthiessen. According to Harvard draft press release, Matthiessen was a Harvard scholar and literary critic who “stands out as an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century.” The professor leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room in 1950.
“When Harvard says this is a field important enough that we want an endowed professorship in it, it sends a signal to the entire field of higher education that this is an important field of study,” said Kevin Jennings, a Harvard alum who co-chaired the fundraising drive, speaking to a New England newspaper. “Some folks gave $100, and some folks gave $250,000…. This was really a community creation where hundreds of people gave at some level to make it happen.”
While LGBT studies are a relatively new field of study at U.S. universities, Harvard’s move is not the first. City University of New York founded the first program in gay and lesbian studies in 1986, according to Harvard.