On April 15, Jeremiah Hassel, lifestyle editor of The Daily Collegian, moderated a PRIDE discussion over Zoom featuring three outstanding Penn State LGBTQ alums.
Speaking that day were Jeffrey Conrad, president and founder of AgIS Capital; Mara Keisling, a 1987 PSU graduate and founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Collegian AIG board member Kevin Naff, editor and co-owner of Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest LGBTQ newspaper.
Early in the discussion, Hassel noted that Conrad had made a large donation to the PSU Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and asked him why he’d made that gift.
Conrad, who graduated from Penn State in 1983, said he felt like it was the time in his life when he should start giving back. He said he was raised in a rural, farming area of Pennsylvania and was largely closeted as a gay man during his time at Penn State. He said he wanted to be sure there was a place for current students to go where they could be comfortable with who they are.
Naff said of the Center, “the work they do is literally lifesaving.” A1992 Penn State graduate and Collegian alum, Naff served for a time on the board of the Center, which was then called the LGBTQ Student Resource Center.
He explained that to this day many Penn State students are from rural areas, like Conrad, and when they come out, they’re often cut off by their parents. The center, he said, helps these students survive that experience and find tuition money so they can complete their education. He said Conrad’s donation will ensure the center functions for those students for years to come.