When a local Vancouver church invited Michael Blankenship (’13 Anthro., Psych.) to visit its LGBTQ+ group in 2017, he talked about his college experience as an openly gay student who went to school full-time, maintained a 3.86 GPA while finishing two degrees, was intensely involved in campus life, and worked full-time. As a token for his efforts, they passed the hat and collected $21.

“That is so kind,” Blankenship told the group. “I’m good on money now, but since we talked about what it was like to be LGBTQ+ in college, I’ve always wanted to start a scholarship fund for LGBTQ+ students. Are you OK if I use this money to start a scholarship fund?”

Michael Blankenship stands next to a WSU Vancouver building
Michael Blankenship (Courtesy WSU Vancouver)


Of course, they said yes. Since fund raising began in 2018, Blankenship and the WSU Vancouver alumni and development office managed to raise $25,000 to qualify as an endowed scholarship and has awarded five $1,000 scholarships on top of that.

Blankenship went all out, raising money via social media, personal connections, and CougsGive, a 24-hour university-wide fund raising event. Several faculty and staff members signed up for direct contributions from their paychecks. Blankenship and his grandparents provided matching funds as incentive. Some donors had never been to college themselves.

“People jumped in to support the goal and vision of assisting LGBTQ+ students,” he says.

The LGBTQ+ Empowerment Endowed Scholarship started by Blankenship is the first officially endowed scholarship specifically supporting LGBTQ+ students across the WSU system. Its first scholarship was awarded in 2018.

After graduation Blankenship went to work at the WSU Vancouver Office of Admissions. He also earned a master’s degree in school counseling from Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Last fall he began a job as a high school counselor in the Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver.


Read more about Blankenship, the scholarship, and his work.