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A graduation cap with a rainbow pride flag coming off the back

Alumna inspired to make a difference for LGBTQ+ students in the College of Science with new scholarship fund

By Cari Longman

Photo credit: Julie Cooper, '18, OSU Rainbow Connect LGBTQIA+ Alumni Network board member

Alumna and longtime supporter Judy Faucett (Mathematics ’70) has established the first scholarship in the College of Science specifically for LGBTQ+ students experiencing homelessness or other extreme circumstances.

Homelessness has long been an issue that Faucett cares about. When working in New York City earlier in her career, “you couldn’t walk three blocks without encountering homelessness,” she said. When she moved back to Oregon, she realized the problem was everywhere, yet “it was something I’ve been aware of, but something I thought was too big of an issue to have much of an impact on.”

When she recently asked how Oregon State University supports students experiencing homelessness, she learned a startling statistic: Though LGBTQ+ students make up roughly 10 percent of the student population, it’s estimated that they account for 25 to 50 percent of the homeless student population. When she heard this statistic, Faucett was moved to action.

"It’s for kids who are a little bit different because Leonardo was really different and very special."

Judy Faucett smiling and holding a large crab

Judy Faucett was inspired to set up the Leonardo Fund after hearing that LGBTQ+ students were disproportionately effected by issues of homelessness. She hopes the fund can fill the gap when it's needed until other university resources can help students find a safe and stable place to live.

“I had a visit with various groups on campus to talk about the situation and find out what resources students have access to when they become homeless,” she said. She learned that Oregon State’s Pride Center often serves as a place where LGBTQ+ students first come to for help. The Basic Needs Center connects students experiencing food, housing or other financial hardships to resources like food pantries, emergency housing and free textbook lending programs. Yet there is sometimes a gap of time between when a student first experiences challenges and when they find the help they need.

"I want people to know that there is a need and they can make a difference."

“It became clear that setting up some kind of emergency fund to tide them over from the time they first become homeless until resources at the university can help would be really beneficial,” said Faucett.

Thus, the Leonardo Fund was born. Named after the polymath artist, inventor and renaissance thinker Leonardo da Vinci, the fund provides emergency aid to LGBTQ+ students in the College of Science who experience sudden, extreme circumstances or life events.

Many experts believe that Leonardo da Vinci was likely gay. This inspired Faucett to name the fund after him. “It’s for kids who are a little bit different because Leonardo was really different and very special,” she said.

“What’s been so great about Oregon State is I’m finally able to be me.”

One of the things Faucett does whenever she comes on campus is meet with students. Right when the idea of the Leonardo Fund was forming, she happened to meet with a small group of College of Science students who participated in the SURE Science program – another fund Faucett supports. At the end of the discussion, Faucett asked, What has been the best thing about being at OSU? One trans male student replied, “What’s been so great about Oregon State is I’m finally able to be me.”

“What a great, great story about how far the university has come. It’s just such a warm and welcoming environment,” said Faucett. “He’d only known me for 45 minutes, but this is a safe environment and the students know it. I applaud that, and I’m happy to support it.”

Faucett hopes others will be inspired by this fund and support it as well or create similar scholarships to support students experiencing homelessness, members of the LGBTQ+ community or any other minority group that is in need outside the College of Science.

“I don’t give to be recognized, but when I heard stories about the LGBTQ+ community, I realized this is a fund I want people to know about. I want people to know that there is a need and they can make a difference,” she said.

Read more stories about: diversity in science, students, scholarships