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First scholarship for LGBTQ+ students launched at CMU

New fund honors life and legacy of local leader Jeff Basinger

Supporters of the LGBTQ community partnered with the Colorado Mesa University Foundation to launch the first and only scholarship at CMU dedicated to supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer students. 

The scholarship fund — established to honor the work and memory of longtime Grand Junction resident Jeffrey Alan Basinger — will begin awarding scholarships in 2020 while also building a lasting endowment. Basinger, who died in May 2018, was an advocate for LGBTQ+ Coloradans. He helped to found the Common Decency Coalition (later Western Equality), the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in western Colorado. As a gay man living with HIV, he also was a tireless advocate and educator for people living with HIV/AIDS helping to found the Western Colorado AIDS Project. 

headshot of jeff basinger

Jeff Basinger helped found the Common Decency Coalition
(later Western Equality), the first LGBTQ+ rights
organization in western Colorado, and the
Western Colorado AIDS Project. 

“Jeff was an exceptional leader and friend to the Grand Junction community,” said Jack Delmore, DMA, emeritus professor of music and co-chair of the Basinger Scholarship Committee. “His example remains a huge inspiration to many people from all walks of life in Grand Junction and all over our state.”  

The Basinger Scholarship Committee and its donors aim to build future leaders like Basinger through the scholarship. 

“Jeff inspired us all, and we have the unique opportunity to continue his work by directly helping LGBTQ students from western Colorado stay here to pursue their education and be the next generation of leaders,” said Mike Mansheim, co-chair of the committee and advisor to CMU’s Gender and Sexualities Alliance. 

“To LGBTQ youth, our promise is simple: we support you and will never stop advocating for you,” Mansheim added. “To our LGBTQ brothers, sisters and allies, our request is straightforward: give today and help cultivate young leaders who want to stay in Grand Junction and who will give back to our community for decades to come,” he said. 

This passion for investing in local students is one shared by Liz Meyer, CEO of the CMU Foundation. 

“The CMU Foundation continues to acquire philanthropic investments from people who want to support those who formerly may have been marginalized,” said Meyer. "The Foundation looks forward to working with the committee to increase funds for the endowment that will in turn increase opportunity for people in the LGBTQ community.” 

CMU President Tim Foster echoed this sentiment, saying, “This is yet another example of our community stepping up to support area youth. We’re excited to announce this scholarship specifically for LGBTQ students on the eve of National Coming Out Day and during LGBTQ history month. Jeff is certainly one of those local leaders who historians will put in the books as making a difference here.”

Sarah Swedberg, PhD, professor of history and a member of the Basinger Scholarship Committee recalled, “While conducting an oral history interview with Jeff in 2017, when asked what message he had for young people, he replied, ‘It really takes a movement and no revolution is ever started from the top down, it’s always the grassroots up. I think that’s the only way we are going to continue to achieve equality and it’s the only way we are going to continue to achieve social justice and it’s the only way we are ever have any sense of peace in our homes, in our country and around the world.’ Through this scholarship we will help educate future leaders,” Swedberg said. 

This LGBTQ+ scholarship in Basinger’s name will perpetuate his positive, life affirming work and legacy, and allow a new generation to live their truths and follow their dreams. Colorado West Pride (CPW), the area’s LGBTQ community organization, applauded its creation. 

“Jeff left an enduring mark on Colorado and the LGBTQ community. Colorado West Pride is moved to see his memory honored in such an impactful way,” said Heidi Hess, president of CWP. 

To learn more about the fund, donate to or apply for the scholarship visit  


Written by David Ludlam