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Advancement News

Akron Businessman Pledges $2 Million to LGBT Students

Posted Apr. 15, 2008

President Lester Lefton and Harry JacksonAkron businessman Harry Jackson has pledged at least $2 million to support the first endowment for scholarships and programming for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at Kent State University.

Jackson, a former B.F. Goodrich tax attorney who has owned the Odd Corner, a tobacco and gift shop in downtown Akron, for more than 35 years, says he is making the gift to inspire LGBT students.

“I’m hoping they’ll get politically active and educated,” he said. “By educating them, they’ll become part of the process.” 

Jackson says he selected Kent State because of the campus environment. “Kent State is more gay-friendly and progressive than other area universities,” he said. “It’s a good place to start a major LGBT program.” 

The pledge is among the largest ever made for LGBT students at a university. Jackson sought to give flexibility in how the endowment will be used, so it could be directed toward areas of greatest need. It can be spent not only on scholarships, but for programs, speakers and travel to conferences and events. A committee of faculty, staff and students will meet to allocate the funds each year. 

“Mr. Jackson’s tremendous commitment to Kent State contributes to our goals of building diversity and providing an inclusive and welcoming environment,” said President Lester A. Lefton. “We are thrilled that he has selected us to bring his vision to reality.”

“This is the first time there has been something specific for our LGBT students,” said Brenda McKenzie, interim director of the Center for Student Involvement.

“It is a unique opportunity to provide for a population that doesn’t always get recognized.” Jackson, an Akron resident since he moved to the city when he was 8 years old, will fund the majority of his pledge through a bequest gift. Jackson will contribute $25,000 to the endowment immediately, and will add to it with annual contributions. The ultimate size of the gift may far exceed the $2 million pledge. 

“This gift will give us the chance to do more meaningful programs that will bring in more of the university population,” said Leora Rzepka, president of PRIDE! Kent, a campus LGBT student group. “Getting our message out to a broader audience will help us achieve our goal of equality and understanding across campus.”