By Charles Wilmoth August 18, 2021
U.S. Ambassador James C. Hormel (ret.) passed away on August 13. Heir to the Hormel meat company fortune, Jim used his wealth and influence to support the LGBTQ community and its nonprofit service, health and AIDS organizations, as well as small and major cultural organizations.
He put his neck on the line when the then President Clinton nominated Jim to be the first openly gay ambassador in U.S. history. He withstood vile hate attacks by right-wing politicians and evangelists, and served with distinction as our ambassador to Luxembourg.
Much of Jim’s philanthropy was managed through his Small Change Foundation, that over six years gave CIIS grants to support our national Expanding the Circle conferences for improving the campus climate for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities around the country.
In 2015, Jim made a grant of $25,000 to support CIIS’ innovative LGBTQ Leadership Initiative in Higher Education Arcus Fellowship for queer BIPOC college students. In honor of Jim’s advocacy and support of LGBTQ civil rights, CIIS awarded Jim an honorary doctorate at the 2015 CIIS Commencement ceremony. Jim was especially pleased to receive this honor as neither of his alma maters [Swarthmore and the University of Chicago] had ever honored him in this way.
Perhaps Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, has best expressed Jim’s legacy in writing “that generations of LGBTQ+ diplomats, advocates and community leaders will benefit from his life’s work. I know that we will continue to see the immeasurable impact of his contributions on the faces of children who dream of walking the world’s greatest halls of power without worry that who they are or whom they love could ever limit their potential.”
Charles Wilmoth is CIIS’ Associate Director of Development