Janie Long

Retired LGBTQ+ Duke Administrator Leaves Legacy of Inclusion

With a Perkins Library study space recently named in her honor, Janie Long helped build welcoming community at Duke

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Duke Vice President of Human Resources Antwan Lofton shared a message about the connection between Pride Month and Duke's Values.

“It wasn’t about coming out; it was staying in,” Long said earlier this month during a conversation with Working@Duke in Perkins Library. “I’d been in academia long enough to know that if things were going to change, we’d need a big group of people. So after that, I was all over place, trying to build relationships.”

Back then, Long’s idea of a public celebration of National Coming Out Day at Duke didn’t happen. But for the next several years, Long threw herself into strengthening bonds with entities across campus and building the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity into a welcoming community rooted in trust and encouragement.

By the time Long retired from Duke in 2021 as an Associate Vice Provost in the Office of Undergraduate Education – Duke’s most high-profile LGBTQ+ administrator – Duke had become a more inclusive and equitable environment for everyone.

Janie Long speaks at April's dedication ceremony for her Perkins Library study space. Photo courtesy of Duke University Libraries.

The Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity – which Long led until 2014 – had moved into a more-visible location in the Bryan Center. And the Lavender Graduation celebration for LGBTQ+ graduates – which Long created – and Duke’s annual National Coming Out Day celebration are now long-standing and much-beloved campus traditions.

And this past April, Long’s work was commemorated with a study space on the fourth floor of Perkins Library, as well as a new speaker series, all of which are named in her honor. In addition to sunny windows and study carrels, the dedicated corner of the library features comfortable chairs designed for people to gather. And the speaker series, which began in April, will continue to bring leading minds to Duke to discuss LGBTQ+ issues.

“Janie is an activist and a scholar and a teacher,” said Laura Michum, Director of the Rubenstein Library’s Center for Women’s History and Culture and Duke University Libraries’ Curator of Gender and Sexuality History Collections. “I frankly think that libraries are where activism, teaching and education come together, so I think it makes sense to honor her here.”

On one wall of Long’s space is a photo of her at a recent National Coming Out Day event. The image shows her, surrounded by proud students on Bryan Center Plaza, beneath a rainbow of balloons.

“This space is not just my space, it’s also for a ton of community members that came together and worked to support each other and out students,” Long said.

A plaque in study space dedicated to Janie Long, there's a photo of a National Coming Out Day celebration. Photo courtesy of Duke University Libraries.

June is Pride Month, a time to recognize and celebrate LGBTQ+ community members such as Long who have helped spur progress. Pride Month was born out of the “Stonewall Uprising” in 1969 when the LGBTQ+ community stood up against police brutality and discrimination in New York City. Since then, Pride has become a global movement, with celebrations and events held in cities around the world.

Long said she takes immense joy in seeing how current and former Duke students and colleagues celebrate Pride Month, sharing photos on social media and sending her celebratory text messages.

While her career path was winding, pushing for a more empathetic and understanding society has been a consistent theme of Long’s work. A native of Cherryville, she first came to Duke in the 1970s, when she studied at the Duke Divinity School on her way to becoming a Methodist minister. She later became a family therapist and eventually joined the faculty of a handful of universities, where she often researched the challenges facing LGBTQ+ young people.

In 2006, she returned to Durham to lead Duke’s Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life – a precursor to the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity – with the goal of strengthening  the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

Now with a space in Perkins Library bearing her name, and a tradition of acceptance continuing after her retirement, she leaves a legacy of unquestionable progress.

“Her story is really part of our story,” said award-winning author, Washington Post columnist and 1978 Duke graduate Steven Petrow, who befriended Long shortly after she returned to Duke in 2006 and helped to raise funds to honor Long’s legacy. “I was a history major at Duke, so I always believe in the importance of understanding our history to understand our present and perhaps better indicate where we are going. Janie Long is really fundamental to the history of LGBTQ+ individuals at Duke. I think it’s crucial that we remember her and her many contributions.”

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