The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

Pride Center receives donation, new name from parting EWU staff member Lance Kissler


A $50,000 donation has been left to the newly renamed Eagle Pride Center as a parting gift from former Associate Vice President of University Relations Lance Kissler.

When Kissler, a longtime staff member and alumni, decided that he would be leaving his position at Eastern Washington University, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to make a positive impact on the campus LGBTQ+ community.

“I wanted to have an opportunity to make an impact on our students and support the center, even without physically being there anymore,” Kissler said.

Having come from a small farm town, Kissler didn’t know what it meant to be queer while he was growing up. It wasn’t until he was in high school in 2000 that he connected with other LGBTQ+ people through an organization in Spokane called Odyssey.

“This was the first time around a group of people that I was like, wow, this is more of who I am. That was my first sense of finding belonging or community,” Kissler said.

But after graduating from EWU and becoming a full time employee, Kissler was unexpectedly outed. He was published on the front page of The Spokesman Review in connection to INMEX, a youth group geared towards college aged men who identified as gay. Kissler said he was distraught by the turn of events.

“I didn’t have the luxury of having a pride center at Eastern,” Kissler said. “So in 2010, when I heard that the Pride Center was being established, it made me super excited.”

Eagle Pride Center Associate Director Nihtawneemiw “Naite” Boham said that in addition to providing basic needs opportunities, the received funds will be mostly student directed, going towards programs that LGBTQ+ students express interest in.

“If we want to bring in somebody who is a really good role model, or somebody that our students are excited to hear from and learn from, now we have a little bit of extra padding to do that,” Boham said. 

LGBTQ+ related cultural experiences could also be made more accessible with the funds. 

“I know students have things they want to do, like go and see ‘Rocky Horror’ because that is such a key part of queer history and queer culture,” Boham said. “[Students] want to have that connection to where the culture comes from, and so being able to provide opportunities like that would be something we could do.”

Kissler’s donation to the center was not his first for the benefit of LGBTQ+ students at Eastern. In 2016, he helped in the creation of a scholarship program called the Eagle Pride Fund for LGBTQ+ students. Kissler was inspired initially by a friend he had in college who was not supported after coming out to his parents.

“In the eyes of the federal government, [my friend] didn’t have financial need because his parents were theoretically supporting him, but they weren’t,” Kissler said. “It was alarming to me because it made me wonder, how many other students out there are not receiving the financial support they need because of a situation like this?”

As part of his donation, Kissler was allowed to change the name of what was previously the Pride Center. Rather than using his name, Kissler chose something that he hoped would be more inviting to the whole EWU community.

“My name is my identity, and the Pride Center has its own identity, and our students have their own identity,” Kissler said. “I didn’t want to put my identity upon that place or upon them, so I felt that calling it the Eagle Pride Center would be a way to indicate that this is a place where we all have something in common – [we] are all Eastern Eagles.”

Kissler said that what would make his donation worth it to him would be to know that students have benefited from the center.

“I want the students to be able to see that there’s a larger network of support out there for them, both in terms of alumni like myself and with people outside of the university,” Kissler said. “I’d love to see there be opportunities for engagement between our students and our community organizations and our alumni allies– just to build themselves up further.”

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Cannon Barnett, News Editor

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