University of Arizona Alumnus James J. Leos has pledged to contribute $1 million to UA's Institute for LGBT Studies, catapulting it to the front ranks of LGBT Studies research efforts nationally.
Leos recently hand-delivered a check for $10,000 to Institute Director Susan Strykerthe first quarterly installment of the $200,000 he has pledged to the Institute for LGBT Studies over the next five years.
Leos made additional gifts of other assets, bringing the total value of his present support for the institute to $1 million. Previously, in 2010, Leos helped make the largest contribution in the history of the institute$100,000 in the form of a life insurance policywhich led to other donors providing financial support.
Leos has also designated a trust at the UA Foundation on behalf of the institute. While the exact value of the trust likely will change over the course of Leos' lifetime, it is currently valued at several million dollars.
"Jim's generosity has the potential to transform not just our institute, but the field of LGBT studies throughout the academy," Stryker said. "A gift of this size in this area of study is practically unheard of. To say that I'm deeply thankful would be a tremendous understatement."
Leos, a successful Tucson businessman and philanthropist, is an Arizona native whose own experiences of homophobia growing up in a small town prompted him to support research in LGBT studies at the UA. He was a member of the first youth support group at Wingspan, Tucson's community resource for LGBT individuals and their allies.
"I want to make a difference so that kids growing up today won't have to experience some of the things I experienced. Education plays a big part in fostering a climate of change. I want to help my alma mater play a leading role in advancing our understanding of the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity," Leos said.
The mission of the institute, which began as an informal faculty committee in 1993 and became a formal research institute in 2006, is to promote LGBT-oriented research, curriculum development and public programing. The institute and its affiliate members conduct research on issues such as immigration, gender, race, adolescence, socioeconomics, oral histories, health, politics and feminism, all in relation to sexuality and gender identity.
"There are only a few comparable research institutes in the entire country," Stryker continued, "and thanks to Jim's support, we're now better funded than most of them. But we still need to develop additional financial resources in the near term that will enable the institute to increase its capacity to make good use of Leos' eventual bequest in a thoughtful, planned way."
Leos has agreed to take a leadership role in helping the institute meet its goal of raising more than $2 million over the next seven years.
In honor and appreciation of Leos' financial support, the institute will host an annual James J. Leos Symposium. The first symposium, on intersex issues, is slated to be held in March 2013.