By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
LANSING – Most people move from Michigan to Florida, but not Michigan Equality’s Penny Gardner. Gardner, who will be retiring in February from her position as program director in February, did things the other way around.
Gardner, a feminist organizer, came to Michigan State to complete her Ph.D in American Studies, which she finished in 2003.
In the meantime, she found Michigan Equality.
“I was the first paid staff person,” Gardner said, “and I worked part-time until I finished my degree, and then was hired on full time.”
Asked why she traded Florida’s more temperate climate for Michigan permanently, Gardner responded, “I would say it’s the lesbian community, right here in Lansing, and the women’s community, and the opportunity that I’ve had through Michigan Equality to be involved politically and to continue doing those things that fulfill me as an activist.”
Gardner said, “I feel wonderful” about her upcoming retirement.
“I’m very excited about this next time in my life,” she said. “I’m looking forward to my teaching – I’m teaching one class a semester at MSU – and of course will stay involved in those things I’ve been involved with over these past five years.”
“I wouldn’t mind spending a little bit of time on maybe getting my dissertation published,” she added. “I’m sure that will always fall down to the bottom of my ‘to do’ list, the way those things always do.”
Asked whether she might reverse geographic course and head back to Florida, Gardner said, “No, no, no. I’m so ensconced in this state and its lesbian community, they’d have to drag me out feet first.”
And asked whether in her retirement she might choose to pursue lighter activities – like, perhaps, a hobby, Gardner replied, “Hell, no. Activism, public speaking and organizing are my ‘hobbies.’ Those are the things I enjoy doing a lot.”
Michigan Equality will host a well-wishing party for Gardner on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Club 505, 505 E. Shiawassee in Lansing. For more information call the Michigan Equality office at 517-494-5120.