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Donation Protects LGBT Studies At AZ School

TUCSON, AZ - Believing that research is crucial to improving the lives of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Clint McCall and James J. Leos have contributed the largest donation thus far to the Institute for LGBT Studies.

Coupled for more than eight years, the Arizona natives donated $100,000 in the form of a life insurance policy to the University of Arizona institute shortly after learning that it existed. 

"It's not so much about creating a different history for those who are LGBT, but in making sure that we are not deleted," said McCall, senior development director for theSarver Heart Center at the UA. "If not for the research, we all could easily be dropped." 

The contribution comes at a time when the UA institute is in the process of expanding its research efforts and program offerings.

"It's incredible, exciting and affirming," said the institute's director, Eithne Luibheid, who added that other potential donors have since come forward after hearing about the gift from McCall and Leos. 

"It is affirming to have this kind of support from people who really understand that we have to empirically document the status of LGBT people and communities across a range of measures of well-being, so that we can see where we stand and what priorities have to be addressed next," Luibheid said.

"It's not an either-or," she added. "It's a holistic vision about ways to benefit the community as a whole."

The decision to make the donation, which comes in the form of unrestricted funds, was "one of the proudest moments in our relationship," McCall said. 

The two have long contributed to community-based organizations that address the needs of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and felt that supporting academic research also was crucial. 

"It is very important to give to our community," said Leos, principal financial adviser and regional director for The Legend Group.

Leos, who serves on UA President Robert Shelton's LGBT advisory council, was a member of the first youth support group at Wingspan, Tucson's community resource for LGBT individuals and their allies. 

While he and McCall continue to support direct services and organizations doing grassroots work, academia also has an important part in documenting and preserving the experiences and histories of LGBT people, he said. 

"There needs to be an academic emphasis on LGBT needs, and we need to start from statistical research to lend some legitimacy instead of hearsay," Leos said. "Education can bring objectivity about the culture." 

The UA institute is the only of its kind in Arizona and one of few established research institutes in the nation devoted strictly to the study of issues relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Over the years, the institute has initiated collaborative research efforts and projects with departments across campus and organizations off campus. 

Among the institute's areas of focus are immigration, gender, race, adolescence, socioeconomics, oral history, health, politics and feminism, all within the context of sexuality and sexual orientation. 

Andrew Comrie, associate vice president for research, said recent efforts have called for the growth and sustainability of the institute, which was originally introduced as a committee in 1993 and formally established in 2007.

It is important to elevate the status of the institute also because it is aiding in an area "that will only become a more important area of study," Comrie said.

In the last year, members of the UA institute have collaborated in theArizona LGBT Storytelling Project and initiated a fundraising effort for the Miranda Joseph Lecture Series, an endowed lecture series that will launch with an event on March 4, 2011.

The institute also created and launched the Arizona LGBT Research Datawebsite, a primary source for assessments, reports and other documents issued on LGBT issues throughout the state.

In the coming year, the institute will continue funding three research clusters – on LGBT youth, oral histories and on subjectivity, sexuality and political culture – and introduce a new group pioneered by UA graduate student Erin Durban and Laura Briggs, associate dean for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and gender and women's studies associate professor.

Durban and Briggs intend for the new research cluster to connect UA graduate students across disciplines working on LGBT research. 

"There is a wiping out movement, and we have to say 'no' to that," said Luibheid, who is also an associate professor in the UA's gender and women's studies department. "Research is a way of creating history through recording while at the same time creating an agenda for change that brings people together to take action." 

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