Professor Evelynn Hammonds has achieved a lot of “firsts” in the space of diversity, inclusion, and belonging: first openly gay, female, African American dean of Harvard College; first senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity at Harvard; founding director of the MIT Center for the Study of Diversity in Science Technology and Medicine; and many others. In both scholarship and service, Hammonds is driven by a personal commitment to bring her authentic self to campus—and to help others do the same.
“Early on in my career, I decided that I wasn’t going to live a fragmented life,” she says. “I’m committed to social justice for members of the LGBTQ community—and also for African Americans and women. I believe that, to be productive and be a change agent, whether in the academy or in the wider world, you have to bring your full self to the work.”
This spring Hammonds—the chair of the Department of the History of Science, the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, and a professor of African and African American studies—will experience another series of firsts when, at Harvard’s first Lavender Graduation on May 24, the student group LGBTQ@GSAS will bestow the Evelynn Hammonds Award for Exceptional Service to BGLTQ+ Inclusion on its first recipients. By honoring Hammonds and those who follow her example, the group hopes to help make Harvard a place where more LGBTQ faculty, students, and staff feel like they too can bring their whole selves.
Above and Beyond
Daniel Arias, co-president of LGBTQ@GSAS says that the group had been thinking for some time of ways it might highlight the contributions of “those who go above and beyond” to advance LGBTQ inclusion at Harvard. He says that he and his cohorts got the idea for an award named for Hammonds after hearing her speak on a panel at the "Secret Court 100: Harvard's Queer Century" event last spring.
“I decided to email her after the event to thank her for her work on behalf of the community,” Arias says. “She wrote back to say thank you and noted that administrators sometimes are unaware of the impact of what they do. That can give them a feeling of being disconnected from the results of that work. It made me and the other members of LGBTQ@GSAS realize that we as students have the ability to shine our own light on those contributions.”
James Gethyn Evans, LGBTQ@GSAS’s vice president for advocacy says that the group decided to name the award after Hammonds because of her work on behalf of LGBTQ folk at Harvard, particularly in establishing the College’s Office of BGLTQ Life in 2011.
“As dean of Harvard College, Professor Hammonds was instrumental in the founding of the BGLTQ Center, which has been an enormous success and a great resource for undergraduates at Harvard for a decade now,” he says. “She exemplifies the kind of administrator and the kind of person we want to recognize with this award.”
The student group chose well, says Dr. Sheila Thomas, dean for academic programs and diversity at the GSAS and faculty director for diversity in the Division of Medical Sciences. Thomas says that Hammonds has been a leader in the effort to advance diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) at Harvard, not only for LGBTQ folk but also across the board.
“As dean of Harvard College, Professor Hammonds was instrumental in the founding of the BGLTQ Center…She exemplifies the kind of administrator and the kind of person we want to recognize with this award.” — James Gethyn Evans
“As senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity, recognizing that diversifying the faculty requires intentional efforts at multiple points in the pathway, Professor Hammonds helped to establish outreach and pipeline programs for traditionally underrepresented minorities,” she says. “At the College, while there were many people involved in the creation of the BGLTQ center, it wouldn’t have happened without her leadership. In her academic work, she’s taken on questions of bias and race in science. She has just been a champion within the DIB space in theory and in action, which is why it makes so much sense to name this award after her.”
Excellence in LGBTQ Care
For the members of LGBTQ@GSAS, it made sense to give the inaugural Hammonds Award to Harvard University Health Services’ (HUHS) BGLTQ team, led by Dr. Bruce Churchill, in recognition of their efforts “to continuously advocate for better BGLTQ healthcare at Harvard.” Evans says that the team has for a decade voluntarily taken on the responsibility of improving care for LGBTQ members of the University community. In the last year, he says, the group has been particularly responsive.
“We came up with a list of questions about which services HUHS provided specifically for LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty,” he explains. “The team there was extraordinary. They came up with a fantastic webpage that summarized all the information. We wanted to recognize that work and all that they’ve done in this area for the last ten years.”
The BGLTQ team meets on a monthly basis during the academic year, working on issues such as gender-affirming medications and surgeries, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Churchill has also run workshops for nursing and support staff at HUHS and has presented to his colleagues on issues of LGBTQ health. Because so much of this work goes on behind the scenes, he says that it is particularly satisfying to be recognized with the Hammonds Award.
“When I came to HUHS 20 years ago,” Churchill says, “one of my goals was to provide high-quality care to bisexual, gay, and lesbian patients. After a few years, I also began working with transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to provide gender-affirming care. Through that work, and with several other health care providers, the BGLTQ treatment team was started. We’ve come a long way and acknowledge that we still have work to do. This award affirms our work and energizes us to continue.”
“When I came to HUHS 20 years ago, one of my goals was to provide high-quality care to bisexual, gay, and lesbian patients…We’ve come a long way and acknowledge that we still have work to do. This award affirms our work and energizes us to continue.” — Dr. Bruce Churchill
LGBTQ@GSAS plans to give the Hammonds Award to affiliates at Harvard each year. Arias says that many at the University deserve recognition. Over time, he and his cohorts hope to recognize them in order to inspire people across Harvard to improve inclusion for LGBTQ students.
“When people are given the space and resources and support to do LGBTQ inclusion work, the entire Harvard community flourishes and thrives,” Arias says. “We hope that this award encourages administrators to do just that and cultivate excellence within their own departments.”
Professor Hammonds says she hopes that, by increasing the visibility of LGBTQ folk and celebrating the efforts of those who work to welcome them, the award will help raise the profile of faculty, students, and staff who have traditionally been marginalized and underrepresented at Harvard.
“I hope that by bringing attention to this work on behalf of the LGBTQ community, people will see that we live in a diverse community where we always need to be thinking about equity and justice,” she says. As Audre Lorde said, ‘Your silence will not protect you.’ Only by speaking up and stepping out can we move further down the road to real justice and equality.”