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Coming Out Day

Chancellor Straney was keynote speaker at UH Hilo’s Coming Out Day event, where he shared his personal experience as a gay man in higher education.

Chancellor Straney and Laura Sherwood, UH Hilo LGBTQ coordinator, at Coming Out Day event. Courtesy photo.
Chancellor Straney and Laura Sherwood, UH Hilo LGBTQ coordinator, at Coming Out Day event. Courtesy photo.

Chancellor Don Straney was the keynote speaker at the Coming Out Day event held on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Tuesday.

Chancellor Straney shared his personal experience as a gay man in higher education.

“He was authentic in his sharing, allowing for students to relate and see a different side of him,” says Laura Sherwood, UH Hilo LGTBQ coordinator.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports on the event:

When Donald Straney was an undergrad at Michigan State University, he said he was “absolutely convinced” he was the only gay person on campus.

It was the 1970s and the 40,000-student MSU didn’t have an LGBTQ+ center — a hub for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or questioning individuals to convene, access resources or get help.

“There was no way for me to know otherwise,” Straney, chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, told about 50 students, staff and faculty members Tuesday.

This fall, Straney, along with other UH-Hilo administrators and student leaders, helped start the new LGBTQ+ Center on the Hilo campus.

The center is located in a small room on the edge of campus formerly used as faculty offices. Costs — which include operations and funding a center coordinator position — are estimated to run about $45,000 per year, according to Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gail Makuakane-Lundin.

Straney, who was keynote speaker for an on-campus celebration of National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, said he hopes the center gives students a place to meet, get information and — most importantly — increase the LGBTQ+ community’s visibility on the Hilo campus.

“From my point of view, the most important thing the center does is it lets people know that we’re here,” he told those gathered in the Campus Center Plaza. “It lets prospective students know that (LGBTQ+) students have a place on campus.”

Learn more about resources for LGBTQ students at UH Hilo.