Spencer Cox '90 Scholarship for Student Activists

Picture of student participating in habitat for humanity
Photograph © Walter Kurtz
Picture of student protest on campus
Picture of PFOA conference in CAPA

“Knowing that someone believes in you—your ideas and creativity, work and potential—can make a profound difference in the life of a young person. I remember receiving a first scholarship: it felt as if I’d been given the permission and power to ask difficult questions. Ironically, Spencer Cox cut short his education at Bennington College to pursue a question for which the world had no answer. The Spencer Cox ’90 Scholarship will support and encourage student activists at this juncture in history when the fate of our country and the world depends on the hard work of activists.”Chivas Sandage '87

About the Scholarship

Spencer Cox ’90, an artist, performer and activist who studied drama and literature at Bennington, lent creative intellect and intense focus to help fight one of the most pressing social and public health crises of our time. In 1989, instead of returning to Bennington for his senior year, Spencer stayed in New York City to become a pivotal member of ACT UP, the direct-action advocacy group with a mission to end AIDS through research, treatment, and policy. 

Spencer played a defining role in the formation of the Treatment Action Group (TAG) to focus on accelerating AIDS treatment research. A true citizen scientist, he created the study design that led to full approval of ritonavir, a protease inhibiter, in 1996. Once the drug was approved, the death rate from AIDS in United States and other first world countries dropped by 70% in two years. Spencer's work helped save millions of lives. 

The Spencer Cox ’90 scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis to an outstanding Bennington student in their junior or senior year with a passion for social activism and has already demonstrated a commitment to socially conscious action. Recipients are those who bring a fearless spirit and incisive intellect to bear on pressing social issues in the ways that Spencer demonstrated in his lifetime.

Have a memory of Spencer to share? The Alumni Memory Project is currently collecting memories and stories of Spencer's life both while at Bennington and after. Share a memory by calling 802-440-4790 or emailing alumni24hourplays@bennington.edu.

Scholarship Committee

Co-chairs: Chris Boscia '87; Sekka Scher '90

Jennifer Avril '93; Sam Baber '92; Kate Brandt '90; Mary Ann Chiasson '72; Blaine Graboyes '95; Carla Klein '89