Dorothy Fillmore earned her master’s in English/English Education at VCU in 1984, and worked as an adjunct faculty member in the department from 1984-1986. Soon after, she began her 35-year career in academic advising and administration at VCU, connecting with and supporting students.
Throughout her career, Fillmore saw students struggle to support themselves financially as they earned their degrees. She also noticed many were members of the LGBTQIA+ community, just like her. In fact, LGBTQIA+ adults are nearly twice as likely to report living in a household that experienced food insecurity in the past seven days, compared with non-LGBTQIA+ adults, according to Census data.
“We know there is a group of students who are at risk because of who they are,” Fillmore says. “In college, these are the years when you start understanding who you are. There are thankfully many students with supportive families, but sometimes it’s the people who are funding your education who are not understanding or tolerant of that. For those students, they need a safety net.”
This is where Equality VCU stepped in. The committee of students, faculty, staff, allies and friends works to promote inclusivity at VCU and fully integrate LGBTQIA+ individuals into all aspects of the intellectual life and social fabric of the university. Fillmore worked with Equality VCU on initiatives that increased representation of the LGBTQIA+ community by supporting students and faculty from the early-2000s when she joined the group until her retirement in 2020.
The same year, the committee established the Dorothy Fillmore Scholarship in her honor to continue this work. The scholarship supports students facing financial hardship as they earn their degree. It can be used not only for tuition and school supplies, but also general living expenses, including food. The scholarship is funded by hundreds of gifts of all sizes, including a generous planned gift from Fillmore’s sister.
“I hope this scholarship will be a safety net for those who don’t have one,” Fillmore says. “I am so grateful for all of the people who have already given to this fund.”
Fillmore is proud to have her name on a fund that supports students who need some help to get through school. She is happy to see any student gain vital access to higher education at the university she loves.
“VCU is the kind of wonderful place to grow, explore and learn that all students deserve,” says Fillmore. “I am thankful to have had a meaningful career at VCU helping to assure that all students have access to the resources they need.”