The show that changed lives

Dusty Joe Garner created an excellence fund for the Spectrum Center to offset costs of counseling services for students.  

Progressive change for Kansas State University was always in Dusty Joe Garner’s blood. Before being a student at K-State he had helped open Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men. As a student he successfully advocated for passage of an ordinance with the Flint Hills Human Rights Project toward non-discrimination, and was participating and hosting the drag shows in Forum Hall.

But the year that he lost his best friend, he felt K-State needed still more resources for LGBTQ students.

“My second year at K-State, my little brother in my fraternity, one of my best friends and roommate, Jason, decided to take his life,” Dusty said. “It really shook everybody pretty hard and motivated me to say we needed more resources here for LGBTQ students.”

The next summer, Dusty went to Dr. Pat Bosco and encouraged him to address the need for more support for the LGBTQ Resource Center (now called the Spectrum Center). Dusty was told it could happen, but he needed to find the money for it.

After learning how to write an institutional grant, which earned the center a few thousand dollars, Dusty wanted to do more still.

“My first idea was to donate the money I earned from one of my numbers during the annual K-State drag show in McCain. My goal was $500 to cover one of the scholarships that I received,” Dusty said. “We met that in the first year.”

The shows have continued and the momentum has not slowed. The year Dusty announced he was going to match every dollar with a goal of funding four scholarships, it was met and doubled.

The show has become one of the biggest drag show fundraisers in the nation.

“It’s part of my nature, that if I have the ability to do something, I do it. I think that is partially related to my time in the drag world,” Dusty said. “I was never in a position financially where I could physically write a check, but what I could do was host a show where everyone donated their tips, bundle that money and donate it.”

Learn more about K-State’s Spectrum Center.

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