The 2017 GSBA Scholars Dinner

by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
| May 24, 2017

CHERNIN,LOUISE_2017_blog_217x202Hearts were bursting with pride as over 500 guests including scholars, donors, community leaders and elected officials gathered to witness history as GSBA gave out its $3 millionth dollar in scholarships awarded since 1991.

This Fund, and the hope it provides, has changed the lives of over 500 LGBT and allied students but, perhaps the biggest game changer is the launch of the GSBA Guarantee. The Guarantee promises up to four years of support to GSBA Scholars as long as they continue their part by doing their best in school. This extraordinary commitment is possible because of you, and your understanding of the power of education to change lives.The exciting news continued as long-term GSBA member and Antioch Board member,Steve Crandall, came on stage to announce the GSBA Leadership Academy, an innovative leadership experience created through a partnership between Antioch and GSBA with support from Microsoft and input from several GSBA donors. This Leadership Academy will hold its first immersion weekend this August at Islandwood Retreat Center on Bainbridge Island during which all 45 scholars will be brought together to go through a three-day leadership curriculum.

The emotion exhibited in that ballroom was palpable as founders and early donors; six college presidents, a college chancellor, a Supreme Court Justice, a long list of elected officials, community leaders, small business owners and major corporate partners, showed up to celebrate the next generation of leaders and our hope for a better future. It is always a treat to have Justice Yu offer special remarks and this year she also introduced US Senator Maria Cantwell to join her on stage to address our guests. Certainly, the most powerful highlight of the evening came when past GSBA Scholar and 2016 Community Leader of the Year Aidan Key shared his powerful, personal journey and talked about what it meant to him in 2005 to receive a GSBA Scholarship. This year, another new endowment was announced when Sandy Peterson came on stage to present the first Theodore and Rosemarie Ockels Scholarship to Victor Puoci. It is always poignant when our donors who have created named scholarships come on stage to meet their new scholars who received the following named scholarships: Bright Horizon Scholarship; Rich Thoelke Memorial Scholarship; David Barzilai Memorial Scholarship; Chester Podlodowski Scholarship and the L. Robb Scholarship. Additionally, our two Diamond Sponsors, Wells Fargo and Microsoft presented their scholarships.

Thank you to our Emcee Extraordinaire, Danny Cords, Table Captains, remarkable volunteers, photographers Malcolm Smith and Dani Weiss for capturing the evening and Aria Style for the beautiful arrangements. Because of the generosity of the evening's sponsors: Title Sponsor, PwC; Provost Sponsors Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Carter Subaru; and Mentor Sponsor, CenturyLink, 100% of your donations that night are able to be invested in our Scholars. Big thanks also to Interchange Media, Precept Wine, and the Seattle Marriott Waterfront for all the support they gave to this event and to their wonderful staff for taking such good care of us.

Special thanks must also go to our Board Chair, Drew Ness; Scholarship Chair Carrie Carson; dinner Co-Chair Dena Levine; and dinner committee members Katie Mooney and Robert Rhodehamel for giving countless hours to ensure the GSBA Scholarship Fund remains strong. Working alongside this extraordinary Board are GSBA staff members Carlos Chavez, Program and Events Manager, Travis Mears, Director of Development & Scholarship Programs, and Mark Rosén, VP of Development & Corporate Relations and the entire Team GSBA.

Spending an evening meeting our extraordinary scholars and hearing their stories about how GSBA Scholarships transformed their lives; listening to donors talk about how meaningful it is to honor someone through a named scholarship or learning about the lasting impact of leaving a legacy, many of us now are inspired to take the step by investing in the next generation of leaders. If you are considering a first donation or a lasting gift to support a future LGBTQ or allied leader, please don't hesitate to reach out to Travis Mears or Mark Rosén. You have the power to be that next donor that will change a scholar's life forever. You have the power to ensure a better future for our community. Please consider joining the GSBA Guarantee by making a meaningful gift to the Scholarship Fund.

It's not too late to join the celebration and to invest in the next generation of leaders by making a donation today.

For the future,

Louise Chernin,
President & CEO



from Steve Gunn, Wells Fargo Advisors

247“As a member of GSBA’s Scholarship Steering Committee and one of the chapter leaders of Wells Fargo’s PRIDE Team Member Network, it is truly an honor for me to help announce our 2017 GSBA Scholar. I would like to thank GSBA for changing so many lives through the scholarship program. I support GSBA because I know how much its members care. They care about supporting small business. They care about creating inclusive workplaces. And they care about investing in our youth. Our support of the GSBA Scholarship Fund is one of the most important investments we make because we are investing in our future leaders—any one of whom can literally change the course of history… Watch and see!”

from Isyss Honnen, GSBA Scholar

Isyss Honnen GSBA scholar dinner 2017“Through my volunteer work as a facilitator for [trans]ACTION, a support group for Pacific Islander Trans+ and Gender Non-conforming individuals in the sex industry, I empower them to pursue higher education and leadership development. I am also supporting by providing resources—such as access to healthcare, legal help, education, and employment—and as an unconditional support system through U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle. Because of your investment in the GSBA Scholarship Fund, I will become the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. I will sit for the CPA Exam at the end of this year after I receive my B.S. in Accounting from Western Governors University. GSBA is an integral part of my journey to success. Thank you for this opportunity!” 

(Isyss Honnen was raised in Pago Pago, American Samoa, until leaving for college in Hawaii at 17 years old. She moved to Washington for more opportunities and is now pursuing an undergraduate degree in Accounting with plans to become a licensed C.P.A. Isyss uses her past experiences to empower other Pacific Islander trans women in understanding and believing that life and happiness exists outside of the box we’re forced into by society. Isyss attends Western Governors University.)

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