The LGBTQ Center held a grand opening Friday for the center’s new building, a dedicated space called “Stonewall House” located at 22 Benevolent St.
The event included remarks from Director of the LGBTQ Center Caitlin O’Neill, President Christina Paxson P’19, Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes and donors Katie and Brent Gledhill.
O’Neill kicked off the ceremony with opening remarks, detailing the growth of the LGBTQ Center and sharing insight on how the new building would be used to support Brown’s LGBTQ student community.
“When I began at Brown in 2019, the LGBTQ Center was two rooms tucked away in the busy campus center,” they said. “As our former director Kelly Garrett can tell you, when she first began at Brown in 2004, the LGBTQ Center was little more than a single room.”
“And now, 18 years later after the center opened, we are blessed beyond measure to have moved from two rooms into a two story home,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill shared that those involved in the center’s relocation hope that the new space can be a place for students to “study, relax, collaborate, work and attend (center) programming all at the same time,” referencing the fact that the center has been limited in what it can do in its own space in the past.
“For years, we’ve needed to ask students who are studying or relaxing in the center to relocate so we can use the room,” they said. But “Stonewall House has room for everything.”
O’Neill thanked the Gledhills for allowing the center to have “an actual home.”
O’Neill also spoke about the importance of carving out a safe and comfortable space on campus for LGBTQ students.
“It’s important to note that this home-like feel was intentional from the start,” they said. “So many LGBTQ students lack access to a place on college campuses, or even in their own cities and towns, that feels like a home to them.”
O’Neill extended a warm thanks to everyone involved in the construction of Stonewall House, emphasizing the importance of collaboration on the project.
“Everyone from the Gledhills, to architects, to construction, to Facilities Management have been wonderful about incorporating student feedback in the design and renovation process,” they said. “And I can tell you now that nothing can beat the looks of absolute wonder and awe on the students’ faces when they see the space for the first time.”
“It is so incredibly heartwarming to see some of these faces when they see their dreams come to life,” O’Neill said.
Alaina Cherry ’24, an LGBTQ Center student staffer, said that the new space poses a great opportunity for students to convene together and feel welcomed on campus.
“It’s so exciting to have a space to host events and a space for people to study while also meeting new people,” she said. “You can come to work and if there’s people you don’t know, you can come say hi and meet them. It’s not like a library but a casual, welcoming space.”
Nia Sampson ’25, another LGBTQ Center student staffer, added that the recognition of a stand-alone building will be impactful too.
“It’s really important that we finally have a larger space,” she said. “For at least 18 years, we’ve had a small floor on the campus center that wasn’t advertised. Now, we have this big opening and this historical moment.”
Estes also spoke at the event on the significance of the LGBTQ Center having its own building after congratulating the Gledhills and community members on their new space.
“I’m excited to be here in this beautiful new space today,” Estes said, adding that he was excited that his office and the LGBTQ Center are next door to each other.
“I especially want to thank you for making the two buildings accessible,” he said. “It’s important to us in terms of our shared goals of accessibility, equity and inclusion.”
“I am a big believer that visible, geographical, structural messages matter a lot,” he said.
Estes explained that upon his arrival in 2016, “strengthening support for identity centers” was one of his major goals.
“Today is a day when dreams actually come true,” he said. “How exciting it is to be able to continue with advancing priorities on a whole new level.”
“Your generosity … is going to benefit generations of Brown students to come,” Estes added.
Paxson said that she is excited for the opportunities Stonewall House provides for collaboration.
She noted that through the new building, the center has already begun building connections with other student-facing groups on campus, including the Brown Center for Students of Color, the Undocumented, First-Generation and Low-Income Center, Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender and the athletics department.
“This is the place where students come together around their LGBTQ identity, where they can also bring all of these other aspects of themselves to this place and build a really strong community,” Paxson said.
Katie Gledhill spoke after Paxson on the vision, planning and dreaming that went into the development of Stonewall House, including how they chose its name.
“It’s been such an amazingly wonderful privilege to be a part of bringing this to life,” she said. “And one of the perks of that has been the opportunity to name it. … We affirmatively decided we did not want our name on the outside of this house because it’s about so much more than that.”
“We wanted a name that would encompass everyone who has come before us and everyone who will carry the flag on after us,” Katie Gledhill said. “So we thought it was the perfect choice. It’s really where the people who came before us really started to stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ community.”
Kelly Garrett, previous director of the LGBTQ Center, said she was “thrilled to see this long-term dream” come to fruition.
“Even though I’ll miss Brown a lot, I’m excited for where the center is right now and I’ve left it in great hands. (Stonewall House) will encourage me to come back and visit,” Garrett said.
Sofia Barnett is a University News editor overseeing the faculty and higher education beat. She is a junior from Texas studying history and English nonfiction and enjoys freelancing in her free time.