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April 25, 2008

 

Odd Corner owner gives
$2 million for Kent LGBT students

Akron--Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at Kent State University will benefit from a $2 million endowment targeted to them.

Harry Jackson, owner of the Odd Corner near the University of Akron campus, has bequeathed one-third of his estate to the school, and gave Kent the first $25,000 on April 17.

While he will donate more while he is still alive, the bulk of the endowment will come from his estate posthumously.

Jackson first established the fund at the University of Akron, but when the school went to court to seize his store through eminent domain to build a stadium and dorm, he moved the money to Kent, which he views as being a far more LGBT-friendly university.

The University of Akron and Jackson eventually came to an agreement which moves the store from 389 East Exchange Street to 360 East Exchange, and he has guarantees from the school that it will not displace him again, despite earlier plans to build intramural fields on his new location.

Jackson was finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Akron 35 years ago when he opened the store, which has been a fixture of campus life ever since.

Tire company B.F. Goodrich put him through law school, and he enjoyed a successful career as a tax attorney with the corporation.

Successful professionally and being out as a gay man his entire adult life, he wanted to give back.

“I’m hoping this will help raise some good, educated gay men and lesbians,” he said, advising them, “Get educated and get active.”

The endowment can be spent not only on scholarships, but also on programming for LGBT students, speakers and travel to conferences and events. Use of the funds would be determined by a committee of students and employees.

After this first $25,000 installment, Jackson plans to contribute annually. The final value of the endowment may actually exceed the $2 million estimate, depending on the size of the annual donations and the ultimate value of Jackson’s estate when he passes away.

“This is the first time there has been something specific for our LGBT students,” said Brenda McKenzie, the interim director of the Center for Student Involvement at Kent State University in a media release. “It is a unique opportunity to provide for a population that doesn’t always get recognized.”

Kent State was one of the first colleges in the nation to have a gay group, founded in 1971 as the Kent Gay Liberation Front. The organization is now known as Pride Kent, with meetings every Thursday and other programs throughout the school year.

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


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