Friday, November 08, 2019

Retired Vanderbilt dean, now a farmer, lauded for helping the LGBTQ community at the Nashville university

K. C. Potter
K.C. Potter lives on a farm in rural Tennessee these days, but the 80-year-old retired college professor and administrator has been seeing some excitement lately. Potter, the dean emeritus for residential and judicial affairs at Vanderbilt University, was recently declared a Trailblazer by the college for his longtime efforts to help LGBTQ students, Brad Martin reports for The Hickman County Times.

Potter, who is gay, created a policy at the school that protects LGBTQ students from harassment and mentored gay students. In 2008, the college established the K.C. Potter Center, which houses the university's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life, Martin reports.

"I was humbled," Potter told Martin. "And I felt maybe it should have been named for somebody else, or a group. . . . There were a lot of courageous students that I dealt with over the years." He was featured in the 2015 documentary "A Secret Only God Knows", which chronicled the lives of LGBTQ residents who reflect on life in Middle Tennessee before 1970.

A native of Eastern Kentucky who attended Berea College, Potter said he began advocating for LGBTQ students' rights because he saw how homophobic the culture was during much of his 33-year career, which began in 1965. It was so toxic that Potter didn't come out of the closet for years. But after a string of suicides from gay students, he began holding weekly support meetings for LGBTQ students in the late 1970s and from that, the drive to create a policy protecting them was born. After several years of dogged pursuit, Potter convinced the faculty senate to approve the policy in 1993.

Potter says he continues to mentor those who need support. "There is no greater reward in the world, as far as I'm concerned, than to help somebody grow," Potter told Martin.

As a resident of rural Hickman County, southwest of Nashville, Potter also told Martin that all  LGBTQ residents in the county, not just students, need more support. Many fear they'll lose their jobs if they come out of the closet, which Potter attributes partly to religious beliefs and unfounded fears that gay people are pedophiles. It's important for LGBTQ people to find acceptance and support in their community, Potter said, noting that the "overwhelming majority" of people who attempt but fail to complete suicide are gay.

No comments: