Brudner Prize Lecture on Sexuality, Philanthropy and Yale

Visiting Professor Jonathan Ned Katz will deliver Yale University’s annual Brudner Prize lecture in William Harkness Hall, 100 Wall Street, Room 119, on Wednesday, April 2 at 5 p.m.

His talk, “Our Struggle for a History of Sexualities,” will delineate the same-sex bonds in the life of John William Sterling (class of 1864), one of the two or three most important philanthropists in Yale’s 300-year-old history.

Sterling’s $15 million gift to Yale University in 1918 was at the time the largest non-founding gift ever made to a university by a private individual. The gift, now memorialized in the Sterling Memorial Library and the Sterling professorships at Yale, was in no small measure responsible for catapulting the University into its current eminence. Sterling, of the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, was a lifelong bachelor. Yet his diaries reveal that as an undergraduate at Yale, he slept with other Yale gentlemen. Thereafter, for almost 50 years, he shared his life with another man, James O. Bloss. Sterling’s will provided for the establishment of a mausoleum in Woodlawn cemetery as a memorial to, in his words, “single blessedness,” where both he and Bloss would be buried. He provided for Bloss, who continued to live in the house that they shared until his death less than six months later.

The Brudner Prize is an annual honor bestowed by Yale on a leading scholar in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies. This year’s recipient, Jonathan Ned Katz, is one of the founders of lesbian and gay studies. He is an expert on gay American history, and the author of such trailblazing books as Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (1976), The Gay/Lesbian Almanac (1983), The Invention of Heterosexuality (1995), and Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality (2002). Appointed a visiting professor at Yale under the aegis of the new Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies, Katz has been teaching a class on the lesbian and gay history of New Haven and Yale.

The Executive Coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies, Professor Jonathan D. Katz, (no relation) said, “It’s time we recognize that it was a childless same-sex couple who brought Yale to the forefront of world-class universities. And it is particularly satisfying that it was the new Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies that was responsible for bringing this tantalizing fact to light.”

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