Each June, Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots and the impact of LGBTQ+ individuals on American society. With a rich legacy of LGBTQ+ activism and community on campus, Roosevelt University looks back at a few of many landmark events and notable alumni from our history.
Chicago Public Schools teacher and activist James Darby (BA Languages, ’63) cofounded the Chicago chapter of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA), the oldest LGBT organization for American veterans. Darby became national president of the group in 1996; under his leadership, the group met with Pentagon officials and called on President Bill Clinton to lift the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
According to HuffPost, Darby met his husband, Patrick Bova, shortly after graduating from Roosevelt in 1963. The two were lead plaintiffs in Lambda Legal’s Illinois marriage equality lawsuit and married the day after Illinois' same-sex marriage law went into effect in 2014.
The politics of gender and sexuality. The Roosevelt Torch published an article on the Stonewall Uprising and gay politics in 1972, showing an early recognition for a major social movement. The same issue calls for women’s liberation and condemns sexism.
Jackie Anderson (BA Philosophy ’73, MA Philosophy ’75) was a Chicago civil-rights activist and assistant professor at Olive-Harvey College. Anderson helped launch the Lesbian Community Cancer Project clinic on Chicago's South Side and was a founder and leader of Yahimba, which held citywide conferences on African American lesbians’ needs. In Anderson’s honor, her family and friends created the endowed Jackie Anderson Activist Memorial Scholarship.
Chuck Middleton, Roosevelt’s president from 2002 to 2015, was the first openly gay man to be appointed president of a university. Chuck helped found the organization LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education in 2010; he has also served on the boards of SAGE and PFLAG, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.
“I think my presence has opened up possibilities for other LGBT people here to be themselves, and that certainly has made them more effective in whatever they do,” said Middleton.
Roosevelt University was one of the host and sponsors of the 2006 Gay Games, which drew 11,500 LGBTQ+ athletes and artists and 140,000 attendees from around the world. The weeklong event included athletics events in 30 sports; band, cheerleading and color guard performances; chorus and an arts festival.
Carol Ronen (MPA ’79) was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame as a friend of the community in 2005. She served in the Illinois House (1993–2000) and Senate (2000–08) as a stalwart advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Ronen led efforts to ensure that gender identity and sexual orientation would be protected categories under the Illinois Human Rights Act, which protects Illinois residents from discrimination. When the bill was passed, only four other states included such measures.
Through the Center for Arts Leadership, Roosevelt became one of the first American universities to host the Considering Matthew Shepard Residency in 2018. The residency featured University panel discussions and sold-out performances of a new oratorio in memory of Shepard, a gay student who was murdered in 1998. Roosevelt landed the moving piece thanks to the efforts of Chicago College of Performing Arts faculty members Mark Crayton and Cheryl Frazes Hill.
Beckett Costello (BA ’19) was selected as one of 35 young leaders to take part in the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps. As an Obama fellow, Beckett and Roosevelt students Grayson Harvey and Ryan Huck created The Healing Purr, a campus organization that provided an open and honest space for discussions about LGBTQ+ mental health and the healing power of pets.
RUProud is a Gender and Sexual Minority (GSM) and ally organization at Roosevelt University. The group is an intersectional safe space that provides programming for the LGBTQ+ community at Roosevelt University. The student organization hosts weekly meetings and educational campus events to ensure that Roosevelt is a GSM-friendly environment.
This fall, the American Dream Reconsidered Conference will host the panel “The Struggle Continues: The Fight for LGBTQ+ Rights.” This panel will ask how the history of rights and freedom movements might inform the next chapter of LGBTQ+ rights activism on the local and national levels. The virtual panel will include speakers from Lambda Legal, Brave Space Alliance and Center on Halsted. More updates to come at americandreamconference.com.