Dr. Ronni Sanlo is a well known keynote speaker and workshop presenter at colleges and universities around the country. Her focus is LGBT history, learning outcomes, strategic planning, and LGBT center development. Ronni speaks not only from her perspective as a higher education/student affairs professor, LGBT center director, dean of students, and faculty in residence, but also from her personal life experiences.
Ronni knew she was a lesbian by the time she was 11 years old but she was too frightened to tell anyone. She graduated from the University of Florida in 1969 and married two years later because she didn’t want her family to think she was so different from them. Her children were 3 and 6 when she finally came out, two years after Anita Bryant led the repeal of Miami’s Gay Rights ordinance in 1977. The Florida legislature created anti-gay parenting law to honor Bryant and Ronni lost custody of her young children.
Ronni had limited visitation with her children, then none as time went on. Her children were told they would contract AIDS from her because, as a gay person, she certainly must have the disease. The children became frightened and refused to see their mother.
After many firings from jobs in Florida because of her sexual orientation, Ronni was hired by the Florida Health Department as an HIV epidemiologist. That job allowed her to obtain a masters and a doctoral degree in education from the University of North Florida. In 1994, Dr. Sanlo was hired by the University of Michigan to direct the Lesbian and Gay Programs office. While there, Ronni added the words “bisexual” and “transgender” to the office name, wrote the initial LGBT program standards for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), was the founding chair of the Consortium of LGBT Resource Professionals in Higher Education, and wrote Working with LGBT College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators (Greenwood Press, 1998). Ronni is the originator of the award-winning Lavender Graduation, a commencement event that celebrates the lives and achievements of graduating LGBT college students
In 1997, UCLA recruited Dr. Sanlo to grow their LGBT Center. After several more books and over 100 articles, Dr. Sanlo created the UCLA Masters of Education in Student Affairs in the Higher Education and Organizational Change (HEOC) division of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and became a full professor and director of that program. Ronni was also the senior associate dean of students and a live-in faculty in residence at UCLA.
Ronni retired from UCLA in 2010 and taught in the Educational Leadership program at California State University Fullerton for the next two years. Ronni continues to speak and write about LGBT history.
She lives with her wife Kelly Watson in their homes in Sequim, Washington and Palm Springs, California where they play passionate but rotten golf.
Ronni’s story, Letter to Anita, narrated by actress Meredith Baxter, is a documentary by award-winning film maker Andrea Meyerson.