Spencer Cox '90 Field Work Term Fellowship 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

“You make your life as meaningful as you can make it. Live it and don’t be afraid of who’s gonna like you or if you’re being appropriate. Worry about things like being kind, worry about being generous. And if it’s not about that, then what the hell is it about? That’s what I’ve learned.” —Spencer Cox ’90, performer, activist, and citizen scientist

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 inhibitor, in 1996. Once the drug was approved, the death rate from AIDS in the 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 Field Work Term Fellowship for Student Activists will provide financial assistance to an upper-level undergraduate student(s) with demonstrated financial need; proven commitment to activism and/or public action; and is pursuing a Field Work Term opportunity within public action, activism and/or civil rights. 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.