Retired Panther pledges $1 million to LGBTQA program

Destiney Burt/Staff Writer

In 1976, being gay and out was difficult. People would get fired for that.

During his 30 years working various positions at the University, Patrick Russell said he felt like it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” atmosphere around campus.

“That’s not fair. I felt like students needed to be recognized, appreciated and celebrated,” Russell said.

Russell has pledged a $1 million gift to the Division of Student Affairs’ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning Ally programming.

Today, a reception will be held to honor Russell for his gift to the LGBTQA programs.

“I want to give back to help the students feel comfortable about coming out,” said Russell.

He didn’t want the reason the program didn’t grow to be because of financial reasons, since it is hard to get funding for gay and lesbian students.

“I feel like a financial commitment could make a difference,” Russell said. “I hope it does. That’s why I did it.”

The Student Government Association funds the LGBTQA programs, but Russell thinks that they shouldn’t have to fund everything.

[pullquote]“Hopefully we can start to see some funding from the state. I would like to see that, and maybe this would encourage it,” said Russell.[/pullquote]

Russell served as assistant dean of students, director of Cooperative Education, worked with the National Student Exchange Program and taught Freshman Experience classes.

Because Russell was a member of the University when the LGBTQA programs didn’t exist yet, he is happy to see how the times have changed and how being gay is accepted more now than it was back then.

Now that the times have changed, it is important to Russell to give back so that LGBTQA students don’t feel alone and they can have support.

[pullquote]“I want people to feel safe about being gay. It should be normal to the point of almost boring,” said Russell. [/pullquote]“But being gay can never be boring, it should be to the point of ‘who cares.’”

Gisela Vega, Multicultural Programs and Services associate director for LGBTQA, met Russell in the 90s.

“During that time, we worked on many projects for the LGBTQA community when there wasn’t an office or a program,” said Vega.

The funding will go towards helping LGBTQA students develop a sense of freedom about their sexual orientation. Russell hopes this gift will give the LGBTQA programs room for growth, making the community more aware and informed.

“The people of the LGBTQA community should always be protected and that wasn’t always the case when I was there,” said Russell.

According to Vega, the gift will also help increase the number of mentors, safe zone trainings and the workshops the program has.

Now Russell is retired and lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where he does volunteer work.

When asked what made him remain loyal to the University, he replied, “It’s called love. I love the University.”


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