Personal journey, civic engagement make compelling cases for planned gift to CU
Travis Leiker's gift to CU is strategic, civically relevant, and emotionally fulfilling. And, as he puts it, "a smart investment."
A lot of "ands" describe why Leiker chose to make a planned gift that will fund an endowed scholarship in political science at CU Boulder. Perhaps the best reason: There is no better place than the University of Colorado to champion the causes he believes in.
Leiker graduated from CU Boulder in 2005 with a political science degree. His calls his time on campus "transformative in a variety of ways." First, the academics were stellar, he says. His degree taught him how to view the world with a critical eye and tackle its most vexing issues. Then there was community; he talks fondly of lifelong connections and friends.
He remembers "an incredibly liberating moment" during his undergraduate years when he came out at an on-campus rally. It happened amidst charged, on-campus discussions surrounding the LGBTQ community, notably gender-neutral restrooms and same-sex partner benefits for university faculty and staff.
"While all of these issues were at the forefront of the national discourse, they were a daily fixture at the Boulder campus. Finally, to a large degree, I had to cast aside something that had caused me so much personal anguish," he says. "I was free to be me."
During high school in Broomfield, Colorado, Leiker knew about scholarships available to LGBTQ students. But he didn't apply for them, largely because of personal insecurities and fear.
"If I did do that," he says, "my parents would know that I was gay and the world would know that I was gay, and I wasn't willing to do that."
He says it didn't occur to him, as a high school senior more than 15 years ago, that those who upheld LGBTQ causes before him tried to do for him what he's trying to do for others now.
It wouldn't happen for years, but the convergence of these life events led him to pledge a personally significant gift. It will one day be funded through his IRA to support political science students who demonstrate a commitment to the LGBTQ community.
"I am making a statement that CU needs to continue to be a welcoming and inclusive place," says Leiker, who works as a director of development at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. "Hopefully this scholarship can help make that a reality for a prospective or current student."
Civic engagement also influenced Leiker's decision. He contributes significant time and energy throughout the Denver community, including leadership stints at the NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation, Conservation Colorado and Denver's Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods.
He believes citizen involvement—voting, running for office, and advocating for issues important to you—shapes opportunities for historically disenfranchised communities: "That was largely rooted in my lifetime of interest in politics, public policy and history, and further enhanced by my education at CU Boulder. I was given the tools and the instruments to make an impact through the civic process."
Philanthropy is the logical extension of that process, he says, and a path to creating change. That's why he sees his gift as strategic. It's supporting students who champion a cause with opportunity to study at an institution that provides tools to deepen their understanding of the civic process and community engagement.
"CU is a safe bet philanthropically. It's a smart investment, and it's a good place to put your money if you want to have an impact and make a statement. I like to do smart things with my resources, and I felt like this was a smart way to do it," Leiker says. "Establishing the scholarship in the way I did, it says being civically engaged is important, getting a degree in political science was an extraordinary education, and receiving that degree from CU Boulder will change your life...as it did for me."
To students and philanthropists alike, Leiker encourages all to Be Boulder, Be Yourself.
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