Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Jim Chalgren LGBT Center will celebrate a milestone on Wednesday. Director of gender and sexuality programs Jessica Flatequal said, “I can’t believe it, but we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of our LGBT center; it was founded in 1977, so it’s actually the second-oldest in the nation.”

Chalgren started the center four decades ago as a small haven for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and Flatequal says it has experienced tremendous growth in that time. “In 1977 the center was literally in a closet upstairs in the counseling center,” she explained. “Since then, we’ve certainly come out of the closet.”

Flatequal said the center continues to be successful in many ways and, “With every passing year we’ve seen more funding, more acceptance, more students that participate, more people that come to our programs. It’s just been really remarkable, I think, as a campus how we’ve changed and evolved in our thinking and our acceptance and how inclusive we are.”

In 2008, when the center was dedicated in Chalgren’s name, Minnesota State Mankato had been listed among in the Advocate magazine’s top 100 LGBT-friendly universities.

Flatequal is also a founder and executive director of South Central Minnesota Pride, and said the community as a whole has been supportive. For example, in the first year of the Mankato Pridefest, 2002, somewhere between 50 and 100 people attended and, “Last year we had 3,500 people come out; that’s a big chunk of our population. Those are not all LGBT people. Those are our allies and our families and folks who just want to be in a community that has a pridefest and bring their kids to get their face painted and play on the jumpy bouncy inflatable thing.”

The celebration begins with a 5:00 p.m. dinner and 5:30 p.m. program in Centennial Student Union, Room 253, on the University Campus. It will also include alumni videos, a special musical performance and guest speakers reflecting on the history of MSU’s LGBT Center.