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Ohio State honored for commitment to LGBT community

A sign welcomes guests at the gala where Ohio State was given the Legacy Honors Award. Credit: Elizabeth Suarez | Multimedia Editor

A sign welcomes guests at the gala where Ohio State was given the Legacy Honors Award. Credit: Elizabeth Suarez | Multimedia Editor

When Jack Miner helped found Scarlet and Gay, Ohio State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender alumni society, in 1997, resources for LGBT students on campus were limited.

Now, almost 20 years later, his alma mater is receiving the Legacy Honors Award, presented every two years by the Columbus Foundation’s Legacy Fund, for its commitment to the LGBT community.

Since its establishment in 2006, the Legacy Fund has granted its top distinction, the Legacy Honors Award, to an individual who has worked to advance the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning community.

For the first time, it was awarded to an institution on Wednesday evening, during a gala at the Huntington Club in Ohio Stadium.

“It’s not just about the individual, but it’s about the collection of individuals; and the idea of OSU being honored was really about all of the people and the history that made the difference in the (LGBT) community in the past 40-50 years,” Miner, a board member of the Legacy Fund, said.

All the proceeds from donations and tickets sales are set to go to the organization’s endowment, which at this year’s event totaled more than $38,000. The money will be used for the four scholarships the Legacy Fund provides to LGBT students in central Ohio, and for the fund it maintains to assist other LGBT-oriented organizations.

Although Ohio State has made recent progress with the addition of gender inclusive housing and gender-neutral bathrooms to be respectful of all sexual identities, for many gathered at the event, the university’s dedication to LGBT rights began about 40 years ago.

When the AIDS epidemic broke out, researchers at Wexner Medical Center were some of the first to research the disease. Additionally, OSU was one of the first universities to have an LGBT student services office not in a counseling center, challenging the association of mental illness with identifying as anything other than straight.

More recently OSU became the first university to allow students to self-identify as transgender, established the first scholarship for a transgender student and the only scholarship for a student living with HIV and AIDS. Ohio State also boasts the largest scholarship endowment for LGBT students in the nation.

“(OSU has) always been forward thinking, they’ve always been supportive and they’ve challenged people to think outside the box, and as an institution that is very hard to do,” said Karen Cookston, who chairs of the Legacy Fund.

In the past, the Princeton Review and The Advocate magazine have recognized OSU as one of the top universities for LGBT students.

“By us stepping out and being that example it didn’t just help the people here, it really helped people across the country,” Miner said.

As an alumnus, Miner aims to give students a feeling of comfort on campus.

“I want to make sure that the next generation has a better experience and that every year it gets better and better for them,” Miner said.

There are now 17 different LGBT organizations at Ohio State, compared to the single alliance that existed when Miner was in school, and with the help of alumni like him, he said he hopes the community will continue to flourish.

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