Harvard Will Announce Endowed Chair in Gay Studies

June 3, 2009

Harvard University plans to announce this week that it is creating an endowed visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, and that it believes that its chair will be the first of its kind in American higher education, The New York Times reported. (In 2003, the University of Maryland at College Park announced a planned bequest to endow such a chair, so Maryland may have bragging rights on the first announced plans.) The Harvard chair will be named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard literary scholar whom -- as described by a draft press release quoted by the Times -- was "an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century,” and who “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent over the death of his partner.

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