Annual Dr John P. De Cecco Lecture in LGBTQ+ Studies

Author: CHSS Communications
April 12, 2022
Sally Gearhart
Photo Credit: Silvia Turchin

The College of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS) is pleased to offer a tribute to former SF State faculty member and community activist Sally Gearhart as this year’s virtual De Cecco lecture. This online presentation includes a trajectory of Sally’s life, work, personality and activism, and includes many film clips of her in action as well as friends and SF State colleagues recounting her influence.

Deborah Craig

The engaging presentation has been prepared by CHSS lecturer Deborah Craig, who is currently making a feature-length documentary about Sally. Deborah Craig earned her Master’s in Public Health at CHSS, where she was introduced to documentary filmmaking. She has been one of the College’s outstanding lecturers for more than 10 years and has produced another acclaimed short documentary, A Great Ride, about lesbian aging.

This presentation will be of broad interest to faculty, staff and students because of Sally’s tenure and influence at SF State, such as founding one of the first women’s studies programs in the country, and her historical significance as a writer and activist, including working shoulder-to-shoulder with Harvey Milk and others in pursuit of LGBTQ+ rights. We encourage you to share this presentation in your classes or with students in general. One of the purposes of Ms. Craig’s documentary is to reveal this “hidden figure” of LGBTQ+ activism, to reclaim this local hero who is not as well known as other activists of her time. See the presentation below.

John P. De Cecco headshot

John Paul De Cecco (1925-2017) was a friend and colleague of Sally Gearhart’s. He was a pioneer in the burgeoning field of sexuality studies and gay/trans/queer studies. From 1960 to 2003, he taught in the Psychology Department at SF State, where he developed his scholarship and teaching in sexuality studies, including, for many years, teaching the popular though often controversial Variations in Human Sexuality course, which drew up to 800 students per semester. Dr. De Cecco was also among the first to receive NIH funding in sexuality studies, for a study of sexual discrimination and rape in prisons. He published many influential articles and books in the new field that evolved from homosexuality to gay and lesbian studies to LGBT studies to queer studies in his lifetime. He edited the Journal of Homosexuality for 34 years. At SF State, in the early 1980s, he co-founded the Sexuality Studies Program, which initially offered a human sexuality studies minor in the 1980s, an LGBT studies minor in 1992, and later became a department with a major in sexuality studies. Dr. De Cecco’s work was nationally and internationally known and respected, and he remained an activist up until his death. CHSS was honored to receive funding for this annual lectureship in his name from his estate.