Donation creates new funds for LGBTQ students

By Emily Wilson

Donation creates new funds for LGBTQ students

By Emily Wilson
The gift by John I. McKinstry was announced during the LGBTQ Alumni Friends Recognition Reception during Homecoming and Alumni Weekend.

While homecoming is often a time for looking back, for one particular University of Miami alumnus it was the perfect opportunity to pay it forward. 

Every year for the past 49 years, John I. McKinstry has given to his alma mater. He started with a gift of $10 shortly after his graduation and has supported student scholarships ever since. 

This year, he decided to do something different. With a commitment of $250,000, he established the LGBTQ Endowed Emergency Assistance Fund and the LGBTQ Student Center Endowed Program Fund. The first fund will provide short-term emergency assistance to self-identified LGBTQ+ students experiencing financial or emotional difficulties; the second will support students’ pursuit of volunteer opportunities with community service organizations. 

The gift was announced during Alumni Weekend and Homecoming’s LGBTQ Alumni and Friends Recognition Reception. The event took place at the Kislak Center at the Otto G. Richter Library and, in connection with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, featured items from the Richter Library’s archives documenting the University’s rich Pride history. 

Unable to attend the reception, McKinstry sent a letter that was read aloud. 

“When I attended the University of Miami between 1965 and 1969, there was no recognition of an LGBTQ+ community. We were thought of by the mental health community to be deficient, with a mental illness,” McKinstry wrote. 

Despite that, McKinstry remembers his time at the U fondly. “I was fortunate to have a supportive family and friends during my ‘closeted’ years at the University of Miami. I was doubly blessed with a trust fund to support my four years at the U with many, many happy memories.” 

Yet, he knows that’s not the case for many other students. Despite the positive changes and strides that have been made toward acceptance and inclusion, McKinstry believes the new funds are “desperately needed.” He referred to the continuing realities of discrimination, ostracism, disownment, and unexpected life events that can adversely affect LGBTQ students and deprive them of financial support they depend on to remain enrolled and continue their studies

McKinstry’s gift is the first of its kind to the University. “I hope that [the emergency] fund can help people who have been so treated to continue at the U with the unconditional love they so deserve,” McKinstry wrote.

"The Division of Student Affairs and the LGBTQ Student Center are grateful for this generous gift,” said Gisela Vega, director of the LGBTQ Student Center. “We hope that John's donation serves as a spark for others to support our efforts so that we can continue to meet the needs of our LGBTQ students and community."

In June 2016 the University established the LGBTQ Student Center, which is dedicated to supporting students of all gender identities/expressions and sexual orientations. The opening of the center was one of the primary recommendations of the LGBTQ Task Force, which was formed in 2014 to assess the level of services for LGBTQ students. 

The University has a number of events and programs in place to support LGBTQ students, including the IBIS (I Believe in Solidarity) Ally Network, which provides a network of allies to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning community.