Donors hope their scholarship makes gay students feel more welcome at WSU
Rick Muma and Rick Case created the Richard D. Muma & Rick A. Case Equality Scholarship for gay students and those who support gay rights.
Rick Muma and Rick Case say they weren’t trying to make waves or stir up controversy when they decided to create Wichita State’s first scholarship to benefit gay students or students who support equality rights for gay people.
They just wanted to make sure that gay students know that people care about them, want them to feel safe at WSU and will try to help them if they need it.
“When we were students in college, we didn’t have any support like this,” says Muma, associate provost and professor at Wichita State. “There were no groups that supported gay people and there was not any kind of financial support for them.”
As gay men, both Muma and Case have experienced episodes of prejudice, hostility and alienation from people with views different from theirs. Sometimes, it hit close to home. Case, for instance, hit a wall of opposition when he tried to disclose his sexuality to his family.
“I tried outing myself to my family and they nailed the closet door back shut,” he said.
To try to conform to their expectations, he repressed his sexuality and lived in denial of it for 20 years before telling his wife. They agreed to end their marriage, which produced two sons with whom he has close relationships. The families of Muma and Case are now very supportive.
Case and Muma said they know that some college students are reluctant to come out to their families for fear of losing financial support. They, too, felt reluctant in telling this story for fear of alienation, but realized if they didn’t, the purpose of the scholarship would have less meaning.
“These young people are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Case, who is district director for the Farm Services Agency of the USDA in Wichita. “The quality of life in the future will depend on young people stepping forward and saying who they are. They need to have role models if they’re going to step up, role models who support equality and honesty and openness.”
Case and Muma, who were married in Quebec City, Canada, created the Richard D. Muma & Rick A. Case Equality Scholarship. It will become an endowed scholarship but they also made immediate gifts so that the assistance could become available this fall. Additionally, Muma has created an estate gift dedicated to the endowment.
The scholarship gives preference to applicants who belong to That Gay Group, a student organization at WSU for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Jennifer Pearson, faculty advisor to That Gay Group, said she thinks the scholarship will show potential students that Wichita State is open to them.
“That message that Rick and Rick are sending is so important,” she said. “LGBT students often look for signs that a college campus will be safe and welcoming before they decide to attend, especially if they come from a high school or community that is oppressive or unsafe.
“In addition, LGBT students often face unique challenges when it comes to financial support,” she said. “Some are too afraid to come out to their families because they believe they will no longer support them emotionally and financially.”
To learn more about how you can establish a scholarship, please contact
Terre Johnson, WSU Foundation vice president for major gifts,
at (316) 978-3808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.