Scholarship brings diversity to campus

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Inspired by their son’s experience at Pacific University, Dawn Holt and Shaun Simpkins founded the Coral Scholarship in 2010 with hopes to promote Pacific as a more diverse campus.

“Our son came out as a gay young man at 14. When he started looking at colleges, he wanted to attend a campus that was safe and comfortable for him,” said Holt. “Right when he looked at Pacific, he had a gut feeling that this was the university.”

During the time their son attended Pacific, there was no LGBTQ scholarship like the Coral Scholarship.

Holt and Simpkins wanted the Coral Scholarship to only be offered to Pacific undergraduate students.

“The point was to help lift the visibility of Pacific as a well-rounded school,” said Simpkins.

From her experience as a parent, Holt mentioned Student Life was very accommodating with reassuring that her son would be comfortable.

“It was out of that experience that both Shaun and I knew we had to take this opportunity to start a scholarship,” said Holt. “We wanted the climate at Pacific to be more welcoming.”

This scholarship is offered to students who identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer.

According to the application, the Coral Scholarship assists a prospective or current undergraduate student in the Pacific University College of Arts & Sciences who demonstrates financial need.

“We have done well over the last couple years, so we are able to award another student,” Simpkins said.

Now, at least two students are awarded per year.

“We are fortunate to have donors actively involved in the university and are very supportive in student successes,” said Shawn Fincher, development officer for Pacific University. “It is the greatest contribution knowing that these donors want to try and strengthen the university through the currently enrolled students.”

Holt and Simpkins have been recently working with Fincher and are grateful for what he has done so far.

“Since we have been working with Shawn, the Coral Scholarship visibility has been lifted up more and that is the best outcome,” said Holt. 

Holt is the President of the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. (PFLAG) and Regional Director for Pacific NW for PFLAG. Simpkins is the IT Communications for PFLAG Portland.

As their work has deepened, Simpkins acknowledged he was particularly aware of students who carry more than one identity and realizes there is still more that can be done to improve the awareness of the scholarship.

“I would love to see the scholarship go even deeper and reach out to those students more,” Simpkins said.

Applications can be hand delivered to the Financial Aid Office in Marsh Hall, mailed, emailed to or faxed to 503-352-2940.

“We both have been working in the LGBTQ community for years and we hope this scholarship will encourage kids to finish school,” said Holt. “We want to send the message that you can do what you want, be who you want to be, go to school and still be gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, intersex or queer. We want them to know that they are valued.”

The Financial Aid Office must receive completed applications before 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15.


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