It was Thanksgiving when Sheldon Raisor, BS’10, came out to his parents as gay. They didn’t take the news well.
If he wanted to make this lifestyle choice, they told Raisor, then they would no longer support him financially.
Raisor—a junior at the time in the IU Kelley School of Business—returned to Bloomington with an overdue bursar bill looming like a dark cloud.
“I was not going to let them take my education away,” he says of his parents who followed through with their promise to cut him off financially. For Raisor, the ability to live openly as a gay man was more important than any amount of money.
On the verge of being kicked out of his Willkie Quad dorm room, Raisor started researching ways to become self-sufficient. To avoid eviction, he applied for and received a Residential Programs and Services student grant.
Then he heard about an emergency scholarship through the LGBTQ+ Alumni Association for students in his situation—students who, after revealing their sexual orientation, are cut off or disowned by their parents. Raisor was awarded the scholarship.
“People in the LGBTQ+ community support each other,” he says. “I was going to be out and proud.”
During his senior year, Raisor became a founding member of Out at Kelley—an organization for LGBTQ+ students in the business school. He secured an internship at Cigna, the health services corporation, where he shared his story and was awarded a grant to stay in school and finish his degree.
IU provides safe haven
Just across the street from Dunn Meadow on the IU Bloomington campus, the LGBTQ+ Culture Center, which opened in 1995, has all the furnishings of a cozy home away from home.
“It’s important to make [the center] look like a home because so many students who come here are not welcome in their own home,” Doug Bauder, the former LGBTQ+ Culture Center director, says.
When it was first founded, Bauder adds, there were similar centers on only 15 campuses nationwide.
As part of his job, Bauder talked on a regular basis with students who were going through the process of coming out and developing an identity for themselves. Like Raisor, Bauder says, many students come to the center after they’ve been thrown out by their parents.
“It happened with enough regularity that I brought the concern to the IU Alumni Association,” Bauder says. The LGBTQ+AA responded by setting up a scholarship fund. The emergency scholarship—like the one Raisor received—was the first of its kind nationally and offers up to $3,000 each semester to full- and part-time students.
Bonds that last a lifetime
It was dawn in Washington, D.C., October 1996. Shane Windmeyer, MS’97, and 40 fellow IU students joined thousands of people on the National Mall.
With his now-husband, Tommy Feldman, at his side, Windmeyer helped unfold the AIDS Memorial Quilt—the world’s most visible symbol of the AIDS pandemic.
“All of us were wearing white,” Windmeyer recalls. “It was emotional to be there with Tommy and Doug Bauder. All the lives lost to HIV/AIDS, it [was] tragic and nobody knew their names or their stories.”
In 1996, the quilt was made up of more than 40,000 panels. Each panel measures six feet by three feet—the approximate size of a human grave. Today, the nearly 50,000-panel quilt is housed at the National AIDS Memorial in San Francisco.
Windmeyer came to IU the same year the LGBTQ+ Culture Center opened in Bloomington. It offered him and Tommy a place to grow as a couple. In 2015, Bauder officiated their wedding.
“Doug has always been special to both of us. He was there for me and Tommy the first two years we were together,” Windmeyer says, adding, “He even did our laundry.”
Roughly four years post-graduation, Windmeyer founded Campus Pride—a nonprofit that works with more than 1,400 campus organizations that support LGBTQ+ rights at colleges and universities nationwide. Every year, Campus Pride publishes the Campus Pride Index, which scores colleges and universities on their LGBTQ-friendly status. IU has been a leader in the ranking, consistently earning five out of five stars in categories like student life, campus safety, and counseling.
“Indiana University is a pioneering leader within higher education for LGBTQ+ issues—especially in the Midwest,” Windmeyer says. “IU’s ability to listen, respond, and commit to its students allows for a more inclusive, safer learning environment.”
Paving the way for others
Steve Tuchman, BA’68, JD’71, was a student long before there were thriving LGBTQ+ communities on the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses.
“I wasn’t openly anything when I was at IU,” he says. “In those days I said to myself, ‘How could I be a gay lawyer?’”
Tuchman, while attending law school and living at home, was outed by an uncle.
“My mom grew up in a religious, conservative environment. To think her son was gay was [hard for her to] grasp,” he explains. “I think my dad knew and never gave me a hard time.”
Later, as she grew to know and love Tuchman’s husband, Reed Bobrick, her resistance waned.
“She had a closer relationship with Reed than almost anyone,” Tuchman says. “[It’s] a not so ordinary story.”
Since graduating from IU Bloomington and IUPUI’s McKinney School of Law, Tuchman and his husband have generously donated well over $100,000. In 2020, the couple pledged $4 million to Mckinney—a gift that will further the law school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through an endowed scholarship and professorship.
“I consider IU the extraordinary place that opened up my inquisitiveness to the world around me,” Tuchman says.
A version of this story, written by Charles Scudder, BAJ’14, was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine.
Scudder is president of the IU Student Publications Alumni Association board. He is a staff writer at The Dallas Morning News and an adjunct professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.