Less visibly, the event also showed the power of philanthropy. Hosting Ignatian Q is just one thing made possible by a fund that is creating new momentum around the University for initiatives that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning students, plus other sexual and gender minorities.
Founded last spring, the LGBTQ+ Student Wellbeing Fund is supporting everything from pastoral care to academic events and the development of classes reflecting LGBTQ+ themes—with the promise of more initiatives to come.
“I’m really encouraged and optimistic about the kind of response the fund has gotten, not only from LGBT members of the Fordham family but also straight members of our family who are deeply committed to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Joan Garry, FCRH ’79, a former executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD and nationally recognized activist who serves on the Fordham University President’s Council executive committee.
Garry and her wife kick-started the fund last year by leading a Fordham Giving Day campaign for it and providing a $50,000 matching gift.
The need is plain, Garry said: The number of students who identify as other than heterosexual or cisgender is growing “off the charts.” These students “have all kind of struggles every day,” from self-acceptance to harassment to bullying, and suffer disproportionately from anxiety and depression, she said.
The fund is also needed because of a political climate that has become “downright terrifying,” she said, pointing to the Human Rights Campaign’s June 6 declaration of a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ people due to laws being enacted around the country.
By helping to foster a more inclusive campus community, the fund dovetails with a key priority of the University’s $350 million fundraising campaign, Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student.
Impact of the Wellbeing Fund
In addition to providing critical support to the Ignatian Q conference, the Wellbeing Fund has supported Campus Ministry programs including Queer Spirit Community and the Prism Retreat, as well as the publication of a Queer Prayer at Fordham booklet distributed at Ignatian Q, said Joan Cavanagh, Ph.D., senior director for spirituality and solidarity at Fordham.
The fund has also supported Center for Community Engaged Learning initiatives including scholarships that helped LGBTQ+ students take part in Fordham’s Global Outreach and Urban Plunge programs, a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ history, and grants for faculty. Co-sponsored by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, the grants support innovative classroom projects related to LGBTQ+ history and advocacy.
The Wellbeing Fund has “ignited an understanding that there is so much to do,” Garry said. “I am excited about the forward motion the fund is creating to educate, drive awareness, and galvanize support.”
See related story: Pope Francis Sends Warm Letter of Support for LGBTQ+ Conference at Fordham