NEW YORK – Born in New York, Greek-American Perry Halkitis is the new Dean of Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey. A child of Greek immigrants, he is the first to break a social barrier in Rutgers’ 250-year history.
Halkitis does not hide his sexual identity. He is the first openly gay dean at the university and he states that his sexual orientation clearly does not affect his new position, but it offers an opportunity to be a good example for others who may feel marginalized in society, as reported in the Daily Targum.
The National Herald spoke to Dr. Halkitis, whose parents originated from Kos. He has visited his parents’ island several times, he told TNH. The extremely beautiful island has a deep history, interwoven – because of Hippocrates – with Halkitis’ work as a scientist.
“For the academic community, for our university, the straightforward statement of my sexual identity was not something that was rumored. The same thing happened with my parents who are very supportive, especially my mother,” said Halkitis.
He does not deny that there are times when this is still a challenge. Halkitis believes it is important that his students can now see that someone can be successful without concealing their true identity. And he adds that he speaks “openly and proudly about his life as a gay.”
Halkitis, 54, is also working on a new book entitled Out in Time which examines the experience of gay men coming out across generations. He interviewed 20 gay men aged 19 to 79 for the book. The thesis is “that the experiences of otherness that we all have is informed in some ways by the time and place in which someone comes out, but there (here) is also a universality that cuts across time,” as reported in the Daily Targum.
“The reason for the book was given by my nephew, my cousin’s son, who is also gay. As soon as he spoke to his parents about his identity, their reaction had troubled him,” Halkitis told TNH, who has studied psychology and has expertise in bio-behavioral, psychological, and public health research.
Dr. Halkitis moved to Rutgers University from New York University where he was the Senior Association Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs at the College of Global Public Health and Professor of Global Public Health, Applied Psychology, and Medicine at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Also at NYU, he founded the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies. Halkitis hopes to help his department at Rutgers up in the rankings to make it one of the top ten programs with innovative research not limited to New Jersey, but to the wider population, with an emphasis mainly on urban residents.
“Finally, I think it is important that we not place people in boxes. Yes, I am a gay man but I am also a Greek-American man, a child of immigrants, the first in my family to have a degree, a brother, a husband, a Northeasterner. That is all to say that we all hold intersectional identities and we celebrate all the parts of us,” Halkitis said as reported in the Daily Targum.