Brian Juchems ‘95
Brian Juchems graduated from Wellsburg-Steamboat Rock (Iowa) High School and enrolled at Luther College in 1991. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with an English major, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. As Luther’s first openly gay hire, he joined the residence life staff as director of Brandt Hall. As a student and staff member, Brian was well-known for his vocal support and activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. While there were influential faculty members such as the late Bruce Wrightsman, professor emeritus of religion, Brian counts Stu Johnston (director of residence life at the time), along with campus pastors Mike Blair and Norene Smith as “reliably visible” allies. Brian was among the first students and staff members to gain notoriety and respect for his bold and unflinching work to push the needle forward in regard to the community’s embrace of LGBTQ rights at Luther College. Brian credits the support and collaboration of fellow students who were part of the confidential LGB support group Wrightsman co-founded, Aware, which later expanded to the more open and visible FLAG (Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Popularly known as “Brian J.,” he has been at the forefront of fostering inclusive schools in Wisconsin for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth since 1998 when he migrated to Madison to serve as director of the LGBT Campus Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Simultaneously, Brian J. worked with Briarpatch Youth Services, Inc., a private, non-profit organization serving Dane County that offers a broad array of services to runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth. Each year, Briarpatch serves approximately 3,000 unduplicated youth. Their mission: Strengthening the Lives of Youth and Families.
Juchems joined the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE) as a program manager in 2002, and was promoted to senior director of education and policy in 2014. He has served as co-executive director of the organization since 2018.
The mission statement of GSAFE is to create just schools for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin by:
Brian J. co-founded and grew GSAFE’s annual Leadership Training Institute into a four-day summer camp for high school students across Wisconsin to develop their skills as activists, allies, and agents of change. He has served as lead trainer, where he provides engaging professional development for tens of thousands of K-12 educators with an approachable and playful Midwest sensibility. In 2005 Brian J. partnered with Madison students to successfully pass the state’s first district-level transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and has since worked with dozens of districts to take similar steps while building towards full statewide protections. Throughout 2016-2017, with the support of the Wisconsin Partnership Program and Gender Spectrum, Brian J. developed and piloted GSAFE’s Gender Inclusive Schools Project, a multi-level approach to help school districts create systemic change towards the health and well-being of transgender and non-binary students. A frequent collaborator with Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Brian J. remains a sought-after trainer and consultant for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools.
In 2015, Brian J. served as the lead community partner/research collaborator with the primary researchers and authors of “School Experiences of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students in Wisconsin” with funding from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and The Wisconsin Partnership Program. It was the first qualitative study looking at this student population in Wisconsin.
Brian J. was honored as Man of the Year by OutReach LGBT Community Center in 2007, and received the Linda Sundberg Civil Rights Defender Award from Community Shares of Wisconsin in 2013.
With his GSAFE colleagues, Brian J. has since collected the Tammy Baldwin Statewide Impact Award from Fair Wisconsin in 2016, the Friend of Education Award from the Wisconsin Education Association Council in 2018, the Wisconsin State Superintendent's Friend of Education Award in 2019, and the National Education Association Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights in 2019.
In his spare time, Brian is secretary and jammer for Wisconsin United Roller Derby (WURD) in Madison, a semi-retired member of the Madison Gay Hockey Association, and a member of the Eastmorland Area Antiracism Group.
At Luther, Brian serves as a class agent for the Class of 1995, and is a member of the Reunion Giving Committee. Brian has returned to campus several times to speak with Luther students and alumni about the issues of equity and inclusion that he is passionate about, and to encourage further progress at Luther and in the Decorah community.
Brian is partner to Jeremy Briggs of Mukwonago, Wis. The pair have no children, but do have four chickens, several fish, and a wonderful six-year old Boxer-Pit Bull mix named Willis.