Spelman College received a $100,000 private contribution for the Dr. Levin Watkins Jr. Scholars Program as well as a lecture series that will explore contemporary issues of race, gender, and sexuality.
“As an institution that upholds a supportive student experience, this gift will present new opportunities for critical conversation on race and sexuality with distinguished scholars and thought leaders, and provide a platform to recognize campus LGBTQ advocates and their scholarly achievements,” Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a statement.
Two sophomores will receive a $25,000 scholarship beginning next year. They can reapply for the scholarship each subsequent year.
“The scholars will call attention to the importance of making visible the courageous and significant work of LGBTQ scholar activists within and beyond the academy, especially at [Historically Black Colleges and Universities],” Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center, said in a release.
The Women’s Center will house the lecture series. Since its inception in 1981, the Center has been “involved in a broad range of advocacy issues and faculty/curriculum development related to gender and sexuality.”
The Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program was established as a means of commemorating Watkins’ contributions to the civil rights movement.
Watkins opened up the door for many others in the black community when he was the first black student to graduate with a medical degree from Vanderbilt University. He was also the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery at John Hopkins University Hospital and played a vital role in blacks attending John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
According to the New York Times, Spelman provided Watkins with an honorary degree for being “the first surgeon to successfully implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a human patient.”
“He was an advocate for social justice throughout his distinguished medical career and Spelman also encourages social change activism,” Guy-Sheftall said in a news release.