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UC Berkeley alumnus creates $1million fund to renovate Wurster Hall and study issues affecting gays and lesbians in architecture
18 Sep 2000

By José L. Rodríguez, Development Communications

Berkeley - A Michigan architect has pledged $1 million to the University of California, Berkeley, to support the renovation of Wurster Hall - the home of the College of Environmental Design - and create what may be the first program of its kind on a U.S. college campus: a landmark fund to study and discuss issues affecting gays and lesbians in architecture and design.

The gift by Jon L. Stryker, a 1989 graduate alumnus of the College of Environmental Design, establishes the Arcus Foundation Endowment.

Stryker, president of the Arcus Foundation of Kalamazoo, Mich., decided to establish the fund as a way of "giving back to the university" that fostered a diverse environment when he was a student.

"I had a very good experience as a student at Berkeley," said Stryker, who founded his architecture firm in 1994. "I had many gay and lesbian friends, and it was a very open community. I wanted to give back to the school and establish a fund that made gay and lesbian students feel that they are an important part of the field and of the school."

One half of the gift will be used to sponsor teaching, research and public discussion on such issues as the effect of prejudice and attitudes toward gay and lesbian professionals. It will fund programs to educate students and the public, including conferences and publications, and will support visiting professors, research fellows and awards for distinguished work at UC Berkeley.

"Maybe Berkeley is an exception, but in general, the (architecture and design) business is homophobic," said Stryker, in explaining the need for the fund.

"This gift reflects Jon Stryker's deep appreciation for his experience in the College of Environmental Design, as well as for the university's ethic of free expression and inquiry," said Harrison S. Fraker, Jr., the William W. Wurster Professor and dean of the College of Environmental Design.

"It also reflects the growing role of lesbians and gays in helping our society nurture an attitude that appreciates the underlying value of diversity," he said. "It highlights Berkeley's commitment to diversity and the contributions to society of its prominent alumni population of design professionals, regardless of their sexual orientation."

The other half of the gift will be used to enhance Wurster Hall studios and public spaces upon completion of seismic safety improvements now under way.

Stryker's gift is the largest single lifetime gift ever received by the College of Environmental Design.

The Arcus Foundation was set up as a family foundation in 1997 by Stryker and Robert E. Schram to "contribute to a pluralistic society that celebrates diversity and dignity, invests in youth and justice, and promotes tolerance and compassion."