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Lifting as we climb: Blugold alum creates endowed scholarship for LGBTQ+ students

| Emily Wermund

How do you acknowledge those who have helped you climb while also aiming to help lift others? This is something Matthew Beasley, a 2004 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire communication graduate originally from Duluth, Minnesota, asks himself routinely.

Matthew Beasley

Matthew Beasley has established a fully funded endowment that will award an annual $500 scholarship at UW-Eau Claire. (Submitted photo)

In elementary school, Beasley struggled with a diagnosed learning difference that impacted his math, reading and writing comprehension. Beasley knew he didn’t fit the mold of a “traditional” student and was told by a high school math teacher that he would never make it to college. However, Beasley was lucky to have his parents, as well as other educators who invested in him and wanted to see him succeed. It was their willingness to help that sparked a desire in him to pursue higher education.

With an ACT score and GPA below the UW-Eau Claire admissions requirement, Beasley acknowledges that the university took a chance on him. With a single compelling letter of recommendation from his high school English teacher who argued, “UWEC would be passing up on someone who has a unique way of thinking,” Beasley was accepted to UW-Eau Claire. Once he got to campus, he immediately flipped a switch, taking advantage of every opportunity.

“Part of what moved me was UW-Eau Claire’s mission of excellence; and in pursuit of perfection, I think excellence is possible,” Beasley says. “That realization made me step back and ask, ‘Am I working toward the best possible version of myself?’”

That notion of excellence helped Beasley maintain focus as both an individual and a student. It fostered a mission to explore the opportunities of learning and life, in order to someday be in a position to give back both personally and professionally. Some of those opportunities included becoming a resident assistant in Karlgaard Towers, serving as president of Mortar Board Honor Society and studying abroad in Marburg, Germany, and Harlaxton, England.

Beasley is a firm believer that study abroad programs change lives and is adamant about taking part in activities that get people out of their comfort zones. Beasley remembers meeting Dr. Sally Webb, a professor emerita of communication and journalism who worked at the university for nearly 50 years, at a study abroad fair. She inspired him to keep his GPA up so that he’d be accepted into the study abroad program in England.

“Dr. Webb was a pivotal figure for me,” Beasley says. “She actively gives back to UW-Eau Claire students, as well as the broader Eau Claire community, through both her academic and philanthropic gifts. She has made opportunities possible for so many.”

Following the example of Webb and others who have inspired him, including John and Helen Drawbert, Beasley realized he had a responsibility and opportunity to continue to give back. Shortly after graduating, Beasley started volunteering, speaking to students and helping others prepare for internships and job interviews. Sharing his story and using his skills were ways to give back, in addition to financial contributions.

Webb agrees wholeheartedly.

“As a student and now as a professional, one of the primary characteristics of Matt Beasley that has led to his success is being strategic,” Webb says. “Matt thinks about what he wants to accomplish and then figures out how to do it. I have followed Matt’s career and philanthropic endeavors with great pride and will be interested to see where his strategic planning will take him next.”

Beasley, who received the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association’s Outstanding Recent Alumni Award in 2010, is now a senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. He leads, empowers and challenges teams to create a culture of equity and inclusion.

Beasley’s career has allowed him to work in the United Kingdom, Europe and the U.S., starting first in the financial services industry and now in human resources. He recently was tapped to serve on the Connecticut Governor’s Workforce Council — DEI Task Force and leads his own coaching company, B. Synergy Coaching, on the side. After spending so much time working in the corporate setting, Beasley felt moved to give back.

Using Gartner Inc.’s community-focused gift-matching programs for employees who make a donation to a nonprofit organization, Beasley contacted the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to learn more about creating and endowing a scholarship. His vision was to establish an award specific to LGBTQ+ and underrepresented students, knowing that for years most Blugolds, including himself, never thought a scholarship for an LGBTQ+ student was a possibility.

Beasley says that trying to find his place at UW-Eau Claire as an openly gay man was challenging. At the time, UW-Eau Claire was not widely known to be the LGBTQ+ friendly campus that it is today. Beasley hopes the award will serve to celebrate LGBTQ+ people at UW-Eau Claire.

“We should climb and lift simultaneously,” Beasley says. “But we also need to think about how we go back for others — that was a critical piece of this scholarship. I wanted to leverage my climb to help others, while recognizing those who have helped lift me up.”

Over the last two years, Beasley utilized Gartner’s matching gift policy to multiply his annual gifts in support of this effort. The Matthew Beasley Blugold Inclusion Scholarship is now a fully funded endowment and will award its first recipient in fall 2022. The fund is endowed at $15,000 to ensure a $500 scholarship each year in perpetuity.

“My intent goes beyond the monetary contribution. I hope it serves as a reminder to students that there is always someone who wants them to succeed,” Beasley says. “I remain grateful to those who helped me climb. If it were not for my parents and high school teachers who believed in me, someone at UW-Eau Claire who said, ‘Let’s give this kid a shot,’ as well as my many personal and professional mentors, I would not be where I am today.”

The gift noted in this piece was received by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation during its Sustaining Human Innovation Campaign, which launched in fall 2021. The campaign aims to generate sustainable funding in the form of endowments for student success, faculty investments, programs of distinction and private funding for facilities projects. The goal of the Sustaining Human Innovation Campaign is to secure more than $125 million in gifts by June 30, 2026.