Spelman College, one of the most esteemed HBCUs in the country, this week announced a new scholarship program for its students, those who advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning issues.
The Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program “will call attention to the importance of making visible the courageous and significant work of LGBTQ scholar activists within and beyond the academy, especially at HBCUs,” said Spelman professor and alumna Beverly Guy-Sheftall, who is the founder of the Spelman Women’s Research and Resource Center.
With a pledge of $100,000, Guy-Sheftall in May launched the scholars program and lecture series to explore contemporary issues of race, gender and sexuality.
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The man for whom the scholarship is named, Dr. Lee Watkins, was Guy-Sheftall’s cousin and a founding member of the Women’s Research and Resource Center’s National Advisory Board. He was also a man who broke many barriers. A statement from Spelman notes:
Dr. Watkins, a Spelman honorary degree recipient, was the first surgeon to successfully implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a human. He was also an influential civil rights activist who helped open the door to hundreds of students of color at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Following graduation from Vanderbilt University in 1970, where he was the first black to graduate with a medical degree, Dr. Watkins went on to become the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery at John Hopkins University Hospital. He later became a professor of cardiac surgery and associate dean at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“As an institution that upholds a supportive student experience, this gift will present new opportunities for critical conversation on race and sexuality with distinguished scholars and thought leaders, and provide a platform to recognize campus LGBTQ advocates and their scholarly achievements,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell.
Two Spelman sophomores—“self-identified LGBTQ advocates”—will be awarded renewable $25,000 scholarships to be announced this fall.
Read more at Spelman College.