Since 1994, the Jonathan Lax Scholarship helped fund the educations of 129 gay men. This year, two student-leaders from Temple are honored.
In Philadelphia and the surrounding area, home to more than a million people and dozens of colleges and universities, there are countless – sometimes obscure – scholarship funds, grants and loan programs to assist nearly every demographic in paying for higher education.
Such is the case with the Jonathan Lax Scholarship, which has helped fund the educations of 129 gay men since its creation in 1994. Two Temple students, sophomore journalism major Nicholas Deroose and fifth-year graphic design and photography major Douglas Cooper, are among the most recent group of recipients. Both received scholarship awards at a reception Oct. 1.
The Bread and Roses Community Fund, a local donor-funded charitable and activist organization, manages the scholarship, selecting applicants based on academic achievement and activism within the LGBTQ community. After reviewing transcripts, evaluating writing samples and interviewing this year’s 30 applicants, it awarded a total of five $4,000 scholarships to the most qualified individuals.
Deroose has been involved with community activism since arriving from his native Singapore in 2008. Particularly interested in issues facing gays within the Asian population, he is currently organizing a discussion panel on the topic.
The event, titled “Gays, Greeks and Gay Asians,” is scheduled to take place at Tyler School of Art Nov. 5.
Cooper, an Honors Program student and Peabody Hall resident assistant, has attended annual AIDS Walks and anti-Proposition 8 rallies. He credited his selection for the scholarship to his 3.8 GPA.
Both Cooper’s and Deroose’s enthusiasm for furthering tolerance and equality in the LGBTQ community reflect the goals of the John Lax Scholarship Fund, “to obtain additional education, aspire to positions in which they contribute to society, be open about their sexual orientation and act as role models for other gay men with similar potential,” as stated on Bread and Roses’ Web site.
Accordingly, both men intend to use their degrees to promote the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
But they have their work cut out for them, especially Deroose, who said he plans to return to Singapore.
“The LGBT movement there is still very young and very small,” he said. “There is section 377A of the penal code, which criminalizes consensual homosexual acts. It is still considered a criminal offense to be gay in Singapore.”
Although it is not enforced, the lingering presence of such a law attests to the infancy of the gay rights movement in the region.
Cooper plans to lend his artistic talents to non-profit organizations.
“A lot of my photography has been about LGBT issues,” he said. “I’ve done pieces on transgender individuals and how they have to hide from themselves and others.”
For now, however, Cooper and Deroose are preoccupied with the microcosm that is Temple.
While both men expressed general satisfaction with the state of LGBTQ issues on campus, they agreed that Temple still has a way to go in terms of understanding and accepting the gay population.
“Although Temple is very diverse, [the administration doesn’t] always have the resources in place to address that diversity,” Deroose said, recommending that openly gay faculty members play a more active role in promoting tolerance of the LGBTQ community.
Cooper echoed this sentiment.
“We don’t have as many gay faculty members as UPenn,” he said, “[But] Res Life is very accepting here.”
Don Hoegg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.