Who is Jim Chalgren?

Photo of Jim Chalgren

JIM CHALGREN, 1951-2000

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato owes its existence in great part to the strength, bravery and dedication of Jim Chalgren.

When Jim Chalgren founded the LGBT Center in 1977 as the Alternative Lifestyles office, it was only the second such center at a U.S. university. At that time, Jim was a graduate student in the Counseling and Student Personnel program. He was a maverick whose tireless efforts to challenge prejudice, educate students and fight for change built the foundation for the vibrant presence the LGBT Center ultimately established on campus and in the community.

For nearly 30 years, the LGBT Center was staffed with a part-time graduate assistant and student volunteers. Dedicated students began the fight for a full-time director in 2003, and following in the footsteps of Jim Chalgren, they held a sit-in at the President’s office. The students were heard, and the LGBT Center’s first full time coordinator was hired in October 2004.

Jim went on to live a heroic life as an activist, garnering state and national attention. Eventually, he left the University but continued to push for gay rights despite battling AIDS. He died in 2000. In Jim’s memory, the Jim Chalgren Award is given to one Minnesota State Mankato staff or faculty member who has acted as a visible and courageous supporter of the LGBT community and the LGBT Center.

At the time of the Center’s dedication in 2008, Minnesota State Mankato had been named one of the top LGBT-friendly campuses in the country and the Center was serving 5,000 students annually.

The naming of The Jim Chalgren LGBT Center honors the spirit of Jim and others who paved the path for us to live safely, find community and be proud of ourselves. Minnesota State University, Mankato gratefully acknowledges the legacy of Jim Chalgren and the generous contributions of his family and friends. May the Jim Chalgren LGBT Center provide the students, faculty and staff of Minnesota State Mankato with support and courage to live life with pride and use our voices to make a difference.