Honoring a Duke Trailblazer and LGBTQ+ Advocate

Duke students pose with Dr. Janie K. Long (center), who retired from Duke as Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education in 2020.

“A safe space for all,” reads a new plaque on the fourth floor of Perkins Library. Fitting words for someone who made countless students feel safe and seen during their time at Duke—Janie K. Long.

Dr. Long retired in 2020. She had worked at Duke since 2006, first as Director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, then as Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, making her arguably the most senior “out” administrator at Duke. For years, students consistently ranked her classes in Women’s Studies and Sexuality Studies among the university’s top 5 percent.

Today, thanks in part to Dr. Long’s efforts, Duke is a more inclusive and equitable environment for all. The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity—which Long led until 2014—now has a prominent location in the Bryan Center. Duke’s Lavender Graduation celebration for LGBTQ+ graduates—which Long established—and Duke’s annual National Coming Out Day celebration are both longstanding and beloved campus traditions.

Dr. Long speaking at the dedication ceremony of a Perkins Library study space named in her honor, April 2023.

After she retired, some of Dr. Long’s friends and former students began discussing how they could honor her many contributions to Duke. They soon found an enthusiastic partner in the Duke University Libraries.

“It is impossible to overstate the impact Janie has made on the hearts, minds, and lives of Duke students,” said Howard Menaker T’74, one of a small group of Duke alumni who organized the effort to celebrate her legacy. “We wanted to find a way to honor her in a permanent way, and the Duke Libraries offered a wonderful way to do so.”

Their plans finally came to fruition this past April, when friends and well-wishers gathered to dedicate a library study space in Long’s honor—the first in our history named for an LGBTQ+ Duke administrator. Her legacy of working for a more diverse and inclusive Duke will also live on through the Janie K. Long Lecture Series, a newly established speaker series focusing on topics of interest to queer communities and highlighting library collections on the history of women, gender, and sexuality.

The first talk in the series took place after the dedication ceremony, featuring a panel discussion on queer student activism at Duke. Panelists included Mandy Carter, Durham-based Black lesbian activist and the subject of our newest library exhibit in the Chappell Family Gallery; Angel Collie, Director of Duke’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity; Liam Miranda T’16 SPP’21, Senior Director of Research and Training at the Inclusion Playbook; and Janelle Taylor T’19, Policy Consultant at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Duke students celebrate Coming Out Day 2015 on the Bryan Center Plaza, an annual campus tradition that Dr. Long helped start.

The panel was moderated by Steven Petrow T’78, contributing columnist for the Washington Post and author, who helped to raise funds for the study space and lecture series named in Dr. Long’s honor.

“Her story is really part of our story,” said Petrow, who befriended Long shortly after she came to Duke in 2006. “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.”