LGBTQ couple provides scholarship to students

LGBTQ couple provides scholarship to students

By News Editor Karah Wilson

A new scholarship is being provided to students in the LGBTQ communtiy in honor Patti Sue Mathis, who took her own life in 1995 at age 22.

Clark West and Elliott Mitchell donated $100,000 to Point Foundation in honor of Patti Sue to create the scholarship.

Patti Sue’s father, Nathan Mathis, protested at a Roy Moore rally in Houston County because of Moore’s opposing viewpoints on same-sex marriage.

“I just got to thinking about it. His whole political career was based on lambasting gay folks. I don’t know, it just hit a nerve with me,” according to Nathan on

Nathan said his daughter’s suicide was because of the lack of acceptance she encountered when she came out as a lesbian and took part of the blame himself.

“Patti Sue Mathis’ suicide is, unfortunately, one of many similar cases involving people within the LGBTQ community without accepting parents,” said Caroline Thompson, vice-president of UNA’s Students Alliance For Equality. “As a lesbian whose parents vehemently reject her identity, I especially relate to the despair Pattie Sue must have felt before taking her own life.”

West said he can relate to some of the alienation Patti Sue must have felt. He is the son of a Baptist minister and was bullied in school, even by a teacher. He said he also felt alone and even considered suicide.

Considering the similarities of their situations, West and Mitchell, a same-sex couple of 46 years, said they took her story to heart.

“In our older age, I really feel like we’re doing what our hearts want us to do,” according to West said in an article on

Thompson said the scholarship is important to LGBTQ college students.

“Many in Alabama have been disowned by their family for coming out and do not have financial support,” Thompson said. “Having an opportunity to a substantial scholarship, specifically for the LGBTQ community, could be life-changing.”

West and Mitchell have been looking for ways to help LGBT students after family rejection with finances and other issues, such as not being socially accepted.

Carmen Burkhalter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said West and Mitchell took part in a panel discussion on same-sex marriage at UNA that led to talk about how to help students who are financially struggling.

The plans for the center are still in the approval process and will not be centered around just LGBTQ issues, Burkhalter said.

Ross Alexander, vice-president for Academic Affairs and provost, said scholars will participate in Point’s Leadership Conference Leadership and Education Affinities Development and Regional Leadership Gatherings.

The funding for the scholarship will cover direct financial scholarship expenses and programmatic expenses related to selection, mentoring and leadership programs from the Point Foundation to the scholar.

“The scholarship demonstrates the university’s commitment to supporting students from a diverse array of underrepresented and disadvantaged groups, including the LGBTQ community,” Alexander said. “We want all our students to feel safe and welcomed on campus so they can thrive academically and socially.”

Qualifications for the scholarship include, but ARE not limited to, signing a contract of excellence, maintaining a 3.3 GPA and providing community service within the LGBTQ community.

“This is the first Point Scholarship established specifically for a student at any Alabama university,” Alexander said. “The scholarship is not housed at UNA, but rather established with the Point Foundation to support a student attending the University of North Alabama. However, UNA is the only school to benefit from the Patti Sue Mathis Scholarship.”

In addition to the scholarship, West and Mitchell pledged $250 thousand for a center at UNA that will promote inclusion and diversity among students.

For more information on the scholarship and other LGBTQ financial services, visit