Our Mission is Simple

Assist in the education of LGBTQ individuals who demonstrate
promise for becoming a positive role model for other LGBTQ people.

Overview Video


2019-20 academic year Scholarships have been awarded.  The application cycle for 2020-21 Scholarships will open in January 2020.  Questions can be addressed to info@mlscholarships.org.

About the Scholarship

The Markowski-Leach Scholarship fund was established as a result of the vision of Tom Markowski and Jim Leach. Tom and Jim were a gay couple living in San Francisco. As the AIDS crisis spread in the early 1980s, they talked about what they would like their legacy to be. They “wanted to make a difference” and felt that, at that time, there was a dearth of positive role models for gays and lesbians. This became the defining theme of the scholarships: to assist in the education of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people who would then have an impact on other LGBTQ people through their works.

The Scholarship fund was part of a bequest from the estate of Jim Leach, which reflected their mutual desire to provide financial assistance to LGBTQ people trying to further their education. Tom passed away 2 years before Jim. Both died as a result of HIV. According to the terms of the bequest, the Scholarship Committee is directed to evaluate applications seeking to identify LGBTQ individuals who are likely to:
“…make a substantial contribution to society, thereby enhancing society’s perception of gay and lesbian people as well as increasing the gay and lesbian community’s self-esteem…”

Selected candidates will demonstrate their dedication to excellence in their lives through service, education, or employment. Scholarship are awarded to applicants whose leadership potential is evident regardless of their chosen field of study or financial need.

Awarded since 1991

awarded since 1991


Award Criteria

Past Recipients

John Earl Dio

UC Berkeley / Legal Studies

Hello! My name is John Earl Dio, and I am a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Legal Studies, and minoring in Human Rights. I am originally from Manila, Philippines, but moved to the United States back in 2001 and have continued to reside in San Fernando Valley, California since. As someone who was formerly undocumented, grew up socioeconomically disadvantaged, and also identified as gay, this scholarship means that I can dedicate more hours to my studies instead of working more part-time. Moreover, this award will also support me as I continue establishing, OUTLAW at Berkeley, which is Berkeley’s first queer, LGBTQ, and ally-in-solidarity undergraduate pre-law organization that launched this past 2013-2014 academic year. More importantly, this award will help contribute to my future goal of becoming a lawyer. Our community is still by far one of the most “legally” discriminated groups in the United States. Whether it is the lack of trans healthcare coverage, or discriminatory labor statutes, our community still has far to overcome in the coming years. Therefore, after finishing my undergraduate degree, I plan on going to law school, where I will specialize in labor rights, and immigration.

Laila Al-Shamma

Stanford University

In the fall of 2014 I’ll be attending Stanford University. I’m very interested in studying various aspects of the humanities and the arts, including language, political science, and music. I’ve been a musician all of my life. In high school I played in the marching band and I’ve sung in a choir for eleven years. Additionally, I strongly identify as an LGBTQ activist and feminist. I’m very excited to study these subjects in college, and I know that my future lies in music, activism, and leadership. As a Markowski-Leach Scholar, I feel more secure in achieving these goals. Beyond monetary assistance, which has helped my family with much of the burden of my college tuition, Markowski-Leach has also given me hope and confidence. Receiving this award is an affirmative push in the right direction; it has validated my dreams and given me more confidence as a leader.

Michael Liu

UCSF / Medical Student

I am incredibly honored to receive the Markowski-Leach Scholarship.  I grew up in Southern California, got my B.S. in Biology at Stanford, and am currently a third year medical student at UCSF.  Growing up in a small Asian conservative suburb has made me value and appreciate just how valuable positive role models are.  I know I would not have been able to be where I am today without the visibility of supportive mentors and the incredible atmosphere of diversity and acceptance that is the Bay Area.  Becoming involved in HIV/AIDS testing and counseling in college sparked my desire to continue being an advocate for sexual health and HIV/AIDS issues, and I want to make it a point to incorporate that in my future career as a physician in whatever way I can.  With the help of this scholarship, I hope to achieve my dreams of becoming a physician and hopefully become the type of mentor and role model that I have admired.

Lisa Levin

UC Berkeley / Comparative Literature

I am excited to have been selected as a recipient of the Markowski-Leach Scholarship. The award will support me as I continue to research and write about queer and trans issues. Often, I find myself disappointed by LGBT organizations that focus on all but the L, B, and T; my work focuses on giving a voice to those who tend to be excluded from the mainstream “gay rights” groups. These individuals should not only be included but become leaders in activist efforts. In the upcoming academic year, I will complete my research project on the representation of queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming women in Japanese art and literature. After graduation, I intend to work as a writer and continue to study and teach about gender and sexuality issues.

Daniel Herrador

UC Berkeley & UCSF / Joint Medical Program

Hello! My name is Daniel Herrador, a current student in the Joint Medical Program and UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. I am pursuing my Master’s in Health Science (MS) and Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). I am originally from Orange County, California but moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Stanford University for my bachelor’s degree in Biology. During college, I worked with openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty to assist constituents in the Castro neighborhood with various issues, complaints, and concerns they had for their neighborhood and city. I have also worked with TeachAIDS, an HIV/AIDS nonprofit to help redesign and repackage their educational materials to make them more electronically accessible in a variety of formats, all while keeping them free-of charge to access. I am also EMT trained, which combined with my public health experiences, put me on the track to preparing for medical school. After graduation and before going to medical and grad school, I worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to help implement electronic medical record software in the city clinics. In my free time, I enjoy playing softball with the San Francisco Gay Softball League, riding my motorcycle, spending time with my caring and loving partner, playing nerdy video games, and catching up with friends. My professional goals include working in a public clinic in the mission, focusing on serving the San Francisco Latin@ community.

Mary Susman

UC Berkeley / Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Mary Susman is a fourth year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is double majoring in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies. Receiving a Markowski-Leach scholarship is empowering as it not only enables her—an out-of-state student from a working-poor family, who works multiple jobs to afford tuition on her own—to continue her studies at her dream school, but it also reaffirms her work within the queer community for collective liberation for all people. While her LGBTQ activism began in middle school, her work has intensified over the years. During college, she served on the planning committee for a camp for LGBTQ youth, she interned at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and she designed and facilitated an undergraduate course called “Collective Liberation” at UC Berkeley. As an openly queer person, she continues to challenge stereotypes while working to dismantle systems oppression that especially affect the most vulnerable among the LGBTQ community. The work she does is only possible because she lives authentically and out, and she is ever grateful for the support of the Markowski-Leach Scholarship Fund for helping her follow her passion and make the world more livable and equitable for all people, regardless of gender and sexual identity. Mary’s future goal is to pursue a joint Ph.D. program in Public Policy and Sociology. Her work will be on the intersection of gender and sexuality, critical race theory, poverty, and policy.

Drew Sabelhaus

UC Berkeley / Mechanical Engineering

I'm Drew, a second-­‐year mechanical engineering graduate student at UC Berkeley, researching robotics and controls. I received my B.S. in mechanical engineering, with a minor in computer science, from the University of Maryland, College Park, where I led my local chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM.) Since graduating in 2012 and coming to Berkeley for my Ph.D., I've served in the national organization of oSTEM Incorporated, working on our chapter handbook and some chapter programs to help current student leaders. My current research is in the design and control of tensegrity (tensile-­‐integrity) structures for dynamic locomotion, in combination with NASA Ames Research Center, where these structures may be used for future planetary lander missions. Receiving the Markowski-­‐Leach Scholarship is an honor, one that will continue to motivate my dual goals of engineering innovation and queer outreach. Honors such as this give me motivation to resist those in my field who compel me to focus solely on research. Though I'm convinced that my outreach work is immensely important, sometimes professors don't see it the same way – this award is a vindication of my efforts! Thanks again to the committee and all involved, I truly appreciate this honor.

Erik Eckert

UC Berkeley / Gender Studies, MD

Hours after DOMA was repealed and Prop8 was dismissed for lack of standing, I reflect on this scholarship and what it means to be here and now. I'm proud to be queer, and today I am happy to be an American. But I'm also aware that the future of our community does not end with the (continuing) struggle for marriage equality. We have to keep working to make publicly visible the extent of the legal, institutional, social, and medical inequalities faced by our community members so that they may be challenged. I want to be a part of that struggle. This scholarship will be used to offset the intimidating costs of my medical education and my masters thesis, which examines how heterosexism seeps into basic science research. With these dual degrees, I hope to close disparity gaps in healthcare for all people and to refuse and confuse the the framing of heterosexuality and the male/female binary as the pinacles of ecological and ethological fitness. Our identities are biologically and socially rooted and we are continuing to ask "to what?" But I for one hope to live in a future in which biology is not used as the moral foundation for the justification of a way of life. I'm here and now- that should be enough.