Office of Alumni Engagement

Peter Staley '83

Peter StaleyProfessional Background

  • 37 years of national leadership in AIDS activism and LGBTQ rights as a leading spokesperson, strategist, and organizer for the history-making movement ACT UP, then as founder of the Treatment Action Group (considered a model for expert patient advocacy across all disease groups).
  • Extensive work on nonprofit boards and government committees, including amfAR (13 years); President Clinton’s National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development; New York State’s Ending the Epidemic Task Force; the NIH search committee that found Dr. Anthony Fauci’s replacement at NIAID; and currently PrEP4All, a national HIV prevention group.
  • A handful of “radical” actions (which I conceived and organized), including one that shut down trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest the high price of AZT (which was lowered three days later). Oh, and I put a giant condom over Senator Jesse Helms’ house (Google it).


What elements of your personal and professional life would be helpful to you in your service as a trustee?
I’d bring a deeply varied background to the task. I started at the Con, transferred to the College, worked on Wall Street, pivoted to a life of activism, and taught activism at Harvard (as a Kennedy School fellow). I’ve always loved the challenge of building consensus around the difficult issues facing the nonprofit boards and government committees/task forces I’ve served on (having honed my skills getting buy-in from
hundreds of passionate activists during ACT UP’s weekly meetings). Follow-through is my forte and should be helpful with the episodic nature of boards. I’d love to work on the Budget & Finance and/or Investment committees (finance experience: five years at Morgan Guaranty trading U.S. government bonds; 37 years fundraising/managing in the nonprofit sector). Service on the board of trustees represents a significant commitment of time and effort.

What draws you to this service?
Giving back. Oberlin instilled in me the essential tools of effective activism—empathy and a desire to better the world—and has always been an incubator for those who want to do good. As a trustee, I’d hope to strengthen Oberlin’s legacy of lifting up young adults who want to help others.

What else do you want your fellow alumni to know about you?
Even though some view me as a radical activist (that’s what makes the news), my religions are science, politics, and defending the institutions of progressive liberalism. As we all know, academia is under attack in this country by the far right. We’ve witnessed some college boards struggle with these attacks, lacking the backbone to withstand external pressures. Oberlin is currently blessed with strong leadership. I would be honored to join a board that would staunchly defend our independence, legacy, and values.