Final Endowment Threshold Reached for New Scholarship to be Awarded Next Fall
by Emily Tarr
January 25, 2008
 

Through donations made in the last two weeks, the endowment threshold has been reached for a new scholarship to be awarded next school year. The John Plummer Memorial Scholarship for Promoting a Welcoming Campus for LGBT People has been established in memory of John Plummer, a longtime comptroller in the Wooster Business Office and mentor to the Wooster lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) student community. Plummer, one of the few openly gay persons on campus, served as a lifeline to many in Wooster’s gay student community and was an ardent advocate for a more inclusive and respectful Wooster campus. After Plummer’s death this past summer, Hans Johnson, a 1992 graduate and friend of Plummer, decided it was the moment to make Plummer’s dream a reality.

In October 2006, Johnson approached the college with the idea for a scholarship in Plummer’s name. It was not a hard case to make because Plummer was such a known and beloved personage at the college for a number of years. After approximately seven months of funding and the donations of over one hundred alumnae, staff, faculty, and friends of the college, the $30,000 threshold needed to endow the scholarship has finally been reached.

“I am so proud that so many recognized the need and the opportunity to make a memorial and incentive for efforts to forge a more inclusive campus community,” said Johnson. “LGBT people, including John Plummer, have been crucial in the life of the college for many decades. This scholarship is an overdue and still very limited recognition of those many contributions.”

Pending official endowment, the $1500 scholarship will be awarded yearly on or about October 11, National Coming Out Day, to one sophomore, junior, or senior student who promotes a more open and respectful campus environment. The scholarship is open to all students, regardless of sexual orientation. In fact, Johnson stresses that non-gay allies play a critical role in confronting bigotry and promoting respect on campus.

A small advisory committee composed of representatives from the student body, alumni, faculty, administration, and the Business Office will recommend students for the scholarship, although specific procedures are yet to be established. However, Johnson encourages current students to begin looking around campus for people who have demonstrated respect for LGBT people, as recommendations will be extremely helpful to those making the scholarship decision.

While the scholarship is both a memorial to Plummer and a recognition of student achievement, it also serves another purpose. Financial dependency plays a particular role in the coming out process for LGBT students. The fear of losing financial support from parents or guardians inhibits the coming out process for many students, causing them to hide their true identity in order to obtain the college education they so greatly desire.

“It’s a very real fear for students today,” said Johnson. “If we are producing one increment, for one student who lives beneath that stigma or fear, then this scholarship, in its infancy, will be accomplishing its mission.”

“The scholarship is a recognition of the time and energy people dedicate to making Wooster a more welcoming campus. A little bit would have helped me out a lot. I know it can help people in the future,” said Liz Miller, a 2007 Wooster graduate.

Though the Plummer scholarship is a step forward in Wooster’s continuing commitment to diversity, Johnson believes there is more that can still be done.

“Wooster as a college and as a community continues to struggle with its recognition and receptivity to the contributions of openly LGBT people…The campus has an obligation to speak out against bigotry in Wooster, Wayne County, and Ohio. The opportunity and the necessity still exists,” said Johnson.

Miller agrees. She hopes that one day Wooster will have more inclusive nondiscrimination policies, including recognition and advocacy around transgender issues. She also hopes for the development of a permanent safe space for the LGBT community, and campus wide recognition of LGBT voices, including in academic settings.

While the initial threshold for the scholarship has been reached, donations are still needed and accepted in order to ensure the life of the scholarship. Contributions can still be made to the John Plummer Memorial Scholarship by writing a check payable to “The College of Wooster” with “Plummer Scholarship” written in the memo section. They can be given directly to Rebecca Schmidt in the Development Office or to Hans Johnson at:
Progressive Victory
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 710
Washington, DC 20009