Spencer Cox '90


Image of Spencer Cox

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, he moved to 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.

He played a defining role in the formation of the Treatment Action Group (TAG) to focus on accelerating AIDS treatment research. A true citizen scientist, Spencer did not let a lack of formal education in healthcare stop him from becoming an expert in this field. Along with a group of other activists, he schooled himself in the science of AIDS, the workings of drug trials, and the government-approval process in order to push the FDA to approve drugs and create protocols for AIDS treatment. As a result, he was able to effectively advocate for the expedited approval of Protease inhibitors. Playwright and activist Larry Kramer has said of Spencer’s work that “few [people] were as startlingly original and productive as young Spencer.”

Photograph © Walter Kurtz