Making Room for Others

As summer slowly fades into fall and students across the region gear up for another school year, we wanted to introduce two people who are working to increase options and possibilities for LGBTQ and straight ally students across the region.

Joann Thompson and Julie Wittrock both attended graduate school at Central Washington University (CWU), and pursued Master of Science degrees. The two first met in 1979 in Spokane, shortly after completing their degrees.

College played an influential role in both Joann and Julie’s lives, paving the way for their successful careers in Information Technology.

Reflecting back on their experiences, they noted “College changes lives. It changes families. While not for everybody, it changed us—giving us opportunities to become happy and successful.”

Given the formative role that college played in both their lives, it’s fitting that the couple wanted to “pass it on” by establishing a scholarship for LGBTQ and straight ally students from Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Ferry Counties in Washington.

With an emphasis on sophomores or students twenty-five and older, first generation students, and/or students with a history of community service, the Thompson-Wittrock Pass It On Fund will award its first scholarship next year.

While this marks the initial year of their scholarship, Joann and Julie have been supporting our movement, and Pride Foundation, for decades. The couple have a vivid memory of when their history of LGBTQ activism began—at Olympia’s Pride Parade in the early 1980s. “We made a point of marching in the parade that year. In those days, it wasn’t very big, so every participant mattered.”

While much has changed since that moment in the early ‘80s when Joann and Julie marched in one of their first pride parades, the critical role that each individual plays in our movement has stuck with them.

Now happily retired in Ocean Park, Washington, they spend their time pursuing hobbies and interests. Julie has been weaving and knitting, while making time to learn Spanish. For Joann, retirement allows her to study Tai Chi and spend time working on Sudoku puzzles. Both are avid readers and gardeners, cherishing the flexibility that their new schedule allows them.

“We gave the state of Washington the best 30+ years of our working lives, then made room for others,” noted Julie.

An important part of Joann and Julie’s scholarship is to honor the people we are working to become. By providing important resources and support to people along that journey—and particularly students from isolated and/or economically struggling areas—they hope to play an active role in shaping the next generation of change makers.

Their advice to potential scholarship recipients? “Give your best to your studies, your employer(s), your family, and your community. Seek out opportunities to learn. Be kind.”

The generosity of Joann and Julie will have a ripple effect on generations to come, as their new scholarship fund touches the lives of students and the communities they will go on to work with.

We thank them for their generosity, and look forward to expanding our efforts to support students through the Thompson-Wittrock Pass It On Scholarship.

Zachary Pullin is Pride Foundation’s communications manager. Email Zachary. 

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