09/17/2013 04:39 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2013

IU Pride: Launching a National LGBT Scholarship Campaign

A great former president of my university, Herman B. Wells, wrote in his memoirs that academic leadership had taught him, "It is not what you do that counts, it is what you help others do that makes progress."

I am proud to share that Indiana University is once again rising to this challenge.

IU's 1,500-member Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association (GLBTAA) has launched what we believe to be the nation's first major university-based scholarship campaign designed to assist students who have lost the financial support of their parents and provide academic scholarships to students (regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity) who combine outstanding classroom achievement with campus or civic leadership on LGBT or other diversity issues.

With a $1-million goal, the campaign will result in an endowment that will dramatically expand the impact of our current scholarship program. To date, the GLBTAA has awarded 35 scholarships. The decision to elevate IU's existing LGBT-related scholarship program to the level of a "campaign" was a natural next step in our longstanding commitment to inclusiveness and support for all students.

Indiana University is known for its leadership among American colleges and universities in establishing policies, programs, and practices that support LGBT students, faculty, staff, and alumni. For the past three years, IU Bloomington has received the highest possible rating from Campus Pride, and in 2012 was ranked by the same organization as one of the nation's top 25 GLBT-friendly campuses.

The IU GLBTAA, formed in 1997, has been a major force in promoting this supportive climate. Now, with the launch of this scholarship campaign, we as a university community renew our promise, in a very public manner, to be there for deserving students and to promote diversity and civic leadership.

Consider just a few recent GLBTAA academic scholarship recipients who represent the best of IU: a biochemist from Chile who is studying for her graduate degree in elementary education and volunteers for Bloomington's Pride Film Festival; a law student active in the Black Law Student Association and the Lambda Law Society who hopes to work for the FBI; a journalism and theater major who writes about LGBT issues for our campus newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student; and a public policy student who led LGBT outreach for a gubernatorial candidate.

These students demonstrate how excellence can thrive in a safe, open and diverse intellectual and social climate.

But much more needs to be done. Even in a world where our Supreme Court offers "a new perspective, new insight" on questions of sexual and gender differences, some students still are estranged from their families due to their sexual orientation or gender identity -- students who would be forced to drop out of school without help.

Our alumni want more for their alma mater. Their desire to make IU a better place -- better, perhaps, than it was when they were students -- has pushed our efforts to this next level. Their commitment and generosity will change lives and create new opportunities on all eight of our campuses. As graduates with a rich variety of life and career experiences, they will fund scholarships to help our students stay in school, achieve academic and professional goals, and take leadership in campus and civic activities that promote equality and human understanding.

President Wells was right. One measure of a great university's progress is the extent to which it helps others. Our LGBT alumni and friends, with this campaign, are an inspiring example of taking that principle to heart.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this blog post described the Indiana University GLBTAA's scholarship campaign as potentially "the nation's first major scholarship campaign" of its kind. In fact, it's probably the nation's first major university-based scholarship campaign of its kind. This post has been updated accordingly.