LGBTQ+ Scholarship Established

A three-year, $30,000 pledge from President Michaele Whelan has created the Wheaton Pride Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to students with a demonstrated financial need who have records of service to and leadership in the LGBTQ+ community and who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. All students are eligible to apply for the Wheaton Pride Scholarship.

“I was inspired by the Ron and Betty Crutcher Scholarship for ‘multicultural students with financial need,’ which I supported last year,” said President Whelan. “With the rising threats facing LGBTQ+ people and increasing legislation in some states targeting trans children and families, I wanted to demonstrate in a tangible way that Wheaton supports and values the LGBTQ+ community and activism for this community.”

This new scholarship is part of Wheaton’s commitment to increasing scholarship funding to ensure a diverse and inclusive campus community, where all students have access to a world-class, practice-based liberal arts education. Currently, 99% of Wheaton students receive some form of financial aid, with the total award averaging over $53,000. 

Susan Jenks Beard ’90, Senior Director, Student Financial Services, cheered news of the scholarship. “In my almost three decades of administering financial aid at Wheaton, the Wheaton Pride Scholarship is one of the most exciting and innovative funds I’ve been involved with. Not only will this new fund further help financially needy Wheaton students, but it will demonstrate our commitment to the good and dedicated work that students are doing regarding LGBTQ+ advocacy and awareness. This is truly a wonderful scholarship opportunity!”

A strong financial aid program is critical to Wheaton’s ability to matriculate the brightest students. Named Scholarships, whether endowed or annually funded, have proven to be an effective way for the College’s philanthropic alumni, parents, and friends to bolster the College’s financial aid offerings. The Wheaton Pride Scholarship complements a student aid portfolio of over 400 merit- and need-based scholarships.

Pride Scholarship Resonates with alumni leaders

“As a Wheaton alum, trustee, and professional in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I am thrilled about the Wheaton Pride Scholarship. President Whelan’s three-year commitment, as the first donor, underscores her dedication and our college community’s commitment to fostering inclusion, belonging, and diversity within Wheaton. This scholarship will not only provide much-needed financial support for students but also affirms the importance of recognizing and celebrating their unique identities. Personally, the Wheaton College Pride Scholarship resonates deeply with my own Wheaton experience as someone with intersectional identities—Black, gay, male—where I was not only respected as a scholar and student leader but also why I continue to give back in multiple volunteer roles. At Wheaton, I firmly believe that everyone’s unique identities are not only acknowledged but also celebrated. In higher education, where there is an ongoing attack on affinity-based initiatives, it heartens me to know that Wheaton has not succumbed to political pressures to eliminate these types of initiatives. This scholarship is a powerful testament to the importance of fostering an equitable and supportive campus environment. I am honored to endorse the scholarship through my financial contribution and welcome others to join me. I am excited to see how this scholarship will impact the educational experiences of Wheaton students.”

Tony Laing ’96, Trustee, Assistant Vice President, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

“I am excited and heartened to learn about the newly established Wheaton Pride Scholarship!  It is especially meaningful that President Whelan is the first donor. This move to support LGBTQ+ students seems like the culmination of a sea change that has happened at the College over the past 35 years since I graduated.  The creation of the LGBTQ alumni group in the early 1990s, led by Jane Martin ’74, Jeff Banks ’92, and Sharon Howard ‘87 P’09 as the head of the Alumni Relations at that time, was an important step for Wheaton, and I was honored to have served as a volunteer with the LGBTQ for many years.  I feel proud of the work we and other alums and volunteers have done over the years and proud of Wheaton for taking the foundational steps that led to this moment. I look forward to hearing about all the excellent work and new opportunities that the Pride Scholarship will provide to LGBTQ+ student recipients.”

Becky Hemperly ‘88, Alumni Board of Directors, 2004-13, LGBTQ+ Alumni Steering Committee, 2000-13, 2016

Impact on the campus community

Since his arrival at Wheaton in 2018, Mike Pratt, the LGBTQ+ Engagement Coordinator in Wheaton’s Center for Social Justice and Community Impact, has observed a deepened, shared commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ community members that extends across all areas of campus. “Academic spaces are some of the most critical support resources available to LGBTQ+ youth, especially for those experiencing rejection or pushback from their families or guardians. In a recent mental health survey, The Trevor Project found that ‘LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide,’ pointing toward an important connection between inclusion within an academic community and harm reduction.” 

This new scholarship, Pratt believes, “will have a significant impact on the lives of queer students by making an inclusive and academically rigorous college community more visible and accessible, particularly for low-income students. The Trevor Project also notes that 28% of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing homelessness, so the more accessible these spaces can be made, the more we can begin to lift up and support LGBTQ+ students of all socio-economic and family backgrounds.”     

Wheaton’s Center for Social Justice & Community Impact is dedicated to providing programs and opportunities that promote and celebrate the LGBTQ+ experience. From Safe Zone training, student clubs and organizations to Lavender Graduation, the goal is to make the campus an inclusive space for all students. The Center provides a point of connection for students who had been active in their high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and want to continue their advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights during their college years and beyond. 

In the Princeton Review’s 2023 edition of The Best 388 Colleges, Wheaton was ranked at number 21 for being LGBTQ-Friendly, based on how strongly students agree that their fellow students treat all persons equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Call for scholarship support

“President Whelan’s commitment to the Wheaton Pride Scholarship exemplifies our college’s dedication to inclusivity,” said Luis Paredes, Associate Vice President, Institutional Equity and Belonging. “It highlights the crucial role of visionary leadership in promoting educational access and opportunity. Her efforts create opportunities for diverse students and showcase her strong commitment to cultivating a campus environment where every individual can thrive. The scholarship is a powerful symbol of her dedication to transforming lives through education.”

Anyone in the Wheaton community can make a gift in support of the Wheaton Pride Scholarship via the College’s secured online gift form. Already, more than $9,000 in gifts have been made, including a gift of $5,000 from Wheaton parents and a $1,000 gift from a member of the Class of 1966. 

“While I have not been able to endow the Wheaton Pride Scholarship,” said President Whelan, “it is my hope that alums and friends will contribute such that it can become an endowed fund in time.”