New Fund Will Support Students Through the GLBT Center
Growing up, Bill Spitz struggled with his identity and with being comfortable enough to acknowledge it to others.
“I was a strong Christian, and trying to figure out my faith situation and being gay was very difficult,” he said.
It wasn’t until after college that Spitz took a hard look at that identity. It took him about 10 more years to decide to fully integrate his Christian life with being gay.
Spitz came out to his sister first but still hesitated to tell his parents. When he did, he recalls his mother saying, without hesitation, “You’re my son and I’m really proud of you.”
At the same time, he acknowledges that his experience of acceptance and support is not everyone’s.
“A lot of people going through this, they feel they can’t share that side with their family,” Spitz said.
That’s why he began a conversation with the staff at NC State’s GLBT Center about providing financial support to students who could no longer count on their families after coming out.
“Kids dream of going to school because it’s going to enrich them and it’s going to give them opportunities for growth, but there’s also this dream about identity and being able to be comfortable in your own skin.” – Bill Spitz
That conversation led to the recent establishment of the center’s Dream Fund. Through this fund, Spitz and other donors will empower the GLBT Center to provide emergency aid to students seeking assistance. Support can go toward expenses including, but not limited to, health insurance, tuition, transportation, food and housing.
Spitz first became connected to the GLBT Center through a Raleigh tennis tournament that he played in each year. A donation would be made to the center from funds generated by the event. Justine Hollingshead, the director of the GLBT Center at the time and now an assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, would speak to the group.
“I still remember, it was maybe 10 years ago, Justine shared some of the hardships that some of the students would face – the real struggle of coming out and losing any support in going to college,” Spitz said. “Mine was a personal struggle – it was so ingrained in me that my two identities could not co-exist – but then there are those that have a family struggle.
“The GLBT Center was there to support them.”
The GLBT Center is one of several campus community centers that include the African American Cultural Center, the Women’s Center and Multicultural Student Affairs. Each provides a welcoming home for students, faculty and staff.
“This is a center for all folx at NC State,” said Jonathan McCorey, director of the GLBT Center. “We do center on people who hold a nondominant identity, however, all are welcome here. It is a place to come to be in community with other people.”
Spitz said his idea to do more for the center began as he was thinking about his local community impact.
“I’ve always believed in the idea that, what you’ve been given, you give back to,” he said.
Although he didn’t attend NC State himself, Spitz grew up in Raleigh and was a Wolfpack fan from a young age. As he thought more about supporting students whose own families might not support them, his plans took shape.
“I really would love to see someone be able to come out on their terms and not make a decision based on parental support,” he said. “If they can look at the available financial support and scholarships and piece them together, that may offer a student a lifeline.
“Kids dream of going to school because it’s going to enrich them and it’s going to give them opportunities for growth, but there’s also this dream about identity and being able to be comfortable in your own skin.”
Make dreams come true
Spitz noted the importance of the GLBT Center as a place for students to feel supported and build a sense of belonging.
“When you are in conversation with another student who is going through the same things, or could talk to a mentor like Jonathan who could come along beside you, then I think it makes a world of difference,” he said. “Knowing we’re not alone, to have a support base, and to shed the walls that we’ve put up to protect ourselves – being able to have a safe space like that on campus, to me it’s so beneficial.”
McCorey acknowledged the importance of supporters like Spitz, and the difference they can make for students.
“People share different parts of themselves when they feel safe to,” McCorey said. “Some do it before, during or after NC State – or never – and all of those are valid. However, if someone does share while at NC State and there is a harsh response from their family, it was important for Bill to know that the center is here to say, ‘I’ve got you and I support you.’”
McCorey said there is always need and as word gets out about gifts such as Spitz’s, he expects to see that need grow. Future support can aid students in the same way or in other ways, such as providing funds for a student to attend a conference to be in community and learn more about their identity, he said.
“Bill’s gift exemplifies that we’re just not NC State, we’re part of a larger community,” McCorey said. “What happens at NC State also impacts what is happening in Raleigh and beyond – there’s no telling which student may go on to graduate from NC State and do something impactful in Raleigh, or in the state, or globally.”