A seventeen-year friendship between two campus administrators has blossomed into a significant gift to the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. Al Alston, Norma Siani-Alston, and Eugene Chelberg
Norma Siani-Alston, recently retired from her position as Director of Special Events for the Office of the President, announced the $10,000 gift on September 16 to honor her dear friend Eugene R. Chelberg, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. The terms of her charitable gift annuity stipulate that "The Eugene R. Chelberg Fellowship will provide undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to gain valuable internship experience with the Longmore Institute on Disability. Preference in the award of the fellowship will be given to students active in both the LGBTQ and disability communities."
"This is an exciting breakthrough gift for many reasons," says Longmore Institute Director Catherine Kudlick. "It's the first in the country — and indeed the world — to openly tap students at this intersection; scholarships and opportunities tend to highlight one or the other of these identities, when in fact a significant number of people inhabit both." Kudlick points out that some of the most exciting scholarship in disability studies explores the intersections between queerness and disability.
Siani first met Gene in 2001 when he, as she put it, “was always haranguing me about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues regarding the commencement ceremony and … was a pain in the butt!” One day Gene invited Norma to lunch to pick her brain regarding his upcoming wedding plans. “When Gene asked me for recommendations for where to hold their ceremony, for some reason, I said ‘let me be your wedding planner.’ He said ‘yes,’ and from then on we became the closest of friends.”
Siani also had a friendly teasing relationship with Paul Longmore who used a wheelchair. “We met when I worked for then-SF State President Corrigan. We always said hello to one another with Paul waving his foot at me and my waving mine right back at him.”
“When Paul passed, I was devastated, I lost a dear friend. I decided in his memory to donate to the Paul Longmore Institute. And now with this gift to Gene, I get to give to two dear friends at once!”
Siani’s husband Al Alston passed away in 2013 but his memory lives on through her generosity.
“And now thanks to her gift,” director Kudlick stated, “we’re well on our way to making sure a future Gene Pool keeps pushing for LGBTQ and disability rights.”
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