Alumnus makes gift to University of Cincinnati LGBTQ Center
Bruce Besanko, retired Kohl’s CFO, gifts $200,000
A University of Cincinnati alumnus has made a $200,000 gift to the university’s LGBTQ Center. Bruce Besanko, A&S ’82, retired Kohl’s chief financial officer, has created the Bruce Besanko Support Fund for the LGBTQ Center.
The UC LGBTQ Center enhances the campus community for LGBTQ students and their allies through intentional advocacy, providing a safe space, intersectional programming, and access to culturally relevant resources. The Center has been on campus since 2011.
Besanko says he wants to directly impact students who use the center as a resource. His gift will support both operational and direct student support.
“There has been such a regression around LGBTQ issues,” he says. “I’m thrilled that UC has a center with a full-time director. That says to me that the university is committed to the LGBTQ community.”
“On behalf of the university and as someone who understands Bruce’s desire to strengthen and support a community that in June comes together to celebrate past and current struggles for acceptance and inclusion, I want to extend my sincere thanks for this generous gift,” said UC Provost Valerio Ferme. “His gift elevates UC’s commitment to LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff, and reminds us that the mission of our LGBTQ Center is to make all members of these communities feel welcome to the university.”
Recent highlights from the UC LGBTQ Center include:
- More than 350 students attended the 2022 Big Queer Welcome, a resource fair at Bearcats Welcome.
- The annual drag show, a showcase and benefit for the GLSEN Cincinnati Chapter, was attended by more than 400 students and raised over $700.
- The Bearcat Ball, a celebration of Black History Month and the queer and trans people of color community, had more than 100 participants. This annual gathering teaches students about the culture of the ballroom scene and celebrates Black and LGBTQ+ identities.
- The PRISM Mentorship Program saw an increase in applications in 2023. This program is designed to connect and pair LGBTQ+ and allied first-year and transfer students. Mentors will provide for UC’s diverse community by leading six weekly affinity groups in fall 2023. They will also mentor the incoming class of 2027.
On behalf of the university and as someone who understands Bruce’s desire to strengthen and support a community that in June comes together to celebrate past and current struggles for acceptance and inclusion, I want to extend my sincere thanks for this generous gift.
Valerio Ferme UC Provost
Students say these events make them feel at home on UC’s campus as well as safe, proud and represented, says Brandi Elliott, PhD, executive director, Student Affairs Identity and Inclusion.
“This generous gift is an example of the commitment our alumni network has to the LGBTQ+ and allied community at UC,” said Chad Freeman, director, UC LGBTQ Center. “We have a vibrant and diverse population of students who hopefully will see this funding as showcasing support, connection, hope and love. We are so thankful and are hopeful that this donation encourages more alums to consider giving to continue the ongoing work of making UC the most welcoming place for all students.”
Besanko retired from Kohl’s in 2020. He previously served as the executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Supervalu, Inc. He also held executive positions at OfficeMax and Yankee Candle, Inc. Besanko joined the United States Air Force in 1982, rising to lieutenant colonel during his 26 years of military service. He received the Air Medal for numerous aerial combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I loved my time at UC,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience and I’m delighted to be able to give back.”
Featured image at top: UC students at Cincinnati Pride. Photo/Provided
With its focus on innovation and impact, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati is where ambition meets action. At the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, we’re driven by next; thinking bolder and dreaming bigger to create the tomorrow we envision, today. Learn more at nextnow.uc.edu.Replace with your text