COLUMBIA — When MU graduate student Erik Hall walked up to the podium Tuesday night, almost all of the Catalyst Award winners had been announced. Only one glass trophy remained on the table.
He looked out into the audience for a moment and then began to speak about his transition to Columbia and his struggle with his true self.
“For the first time in my life, I didn’t know anyone within 200 miles,” Hall said. “I felt alone and I was wrestling with my sexuality.”
Hall told the audience of more than 60 people that he turned to a very good friend to help him grapple with self-doubt and confusion. That friend was Mackenzie Thiessen, who won one of the MU LGBTQ Resource Center’s Catalyst Awards for speaking out for social justice.
Awards were presented to nine winners Tuesday night at Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union.
“The Catalyst Awards are not a checklist, are not about titles and are not easily definable,” said Stuby Struble, MU LGBTQ resource center coordinator. “They are about us, they are about change, they are about love.”
Winners included students and organizations that have worked to promote positive conversation about LGBTQ issues on campus.
Mackenzie Thiessen was happy he won, but doesn't need recognition to continue his work promoting social justice issues.
"As much as everybody does for me, I wish that I could do as much for them," Theissen said. "What's best is that I know I made a difference in Erik's life."
Another winner, Hassan Williams, attended the ceremony via Skype. When it was announced that he had won, his close friends, Greer Relphorde and Jeff Perkins, hoisted up a laptop to the podium so he could give his remarks.
"It's such a surprise," Williams said to the audience while placing his hands on the sides of his face. "I'm just floored."
Other winners included: the MU Athletics Department, Paul Reeves, Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, Missouri state Sen. Jolie Justus, Taylor Dukes, the MU Office of Disability Services and Emily Andsager.