Shippensburg University student Trent Bauer got the surprise of his life when he was called out of the audience of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to be recognized for improving the presence of the LGBT community on SU’s campus.
Bauer is a senior business management and entrepreneurship major. He and his roommate, graduate student Stephanie Knauer applied for tickets to attend the taping of an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Bauer described himself as DeGeneres’ biggest fan, both literally and figuratively. Being 6 feet, 10 inches tall, one of the first things DeGeneres commented on when she spoke with Bauer was his height.
After finding out they finally got tickets to the Oct. 17 show, Bauer and Knauer headed to Burbank, California, where the show is filmed. On their way there, Knauer told Bauer that she had written a letter to Ellen, and only briefly explained what the letter said. Bauer assumed this is why they got the tickets to the show, but he had no idea what impact it would have.
“We flew out there and went to the taping,” Bauer said. “The next thing we knew we were being called up on stage. It was a pretty crazy experience.”
Knauer said she sent the letter about two weeks before SU’s homecoming.
“I sent one letter and it went right through,” Knauer said. “That just goes to show you how important what Trent is doing.”
Both Bauer and Knauer had no idea that DeGeneres would call Bauer on stage. They believed they were only there for the show’s taping, which Knauer said was enough of a gift itself.
While on the show, Bauer was awarded $10,000 as part of DeGeneres’ partnership with Cheerios to spread one million acts of good. Bauer plans to use the money to give back to members of SU’s Pride Center Task Force, which Bauer created. The task force consists of about 20-30 students, including student leaders that volunteer their time to help Bauer. He is also in the process of creating a scholarship for students who are members of the LGBT community.
Bauer wrote and spoke to former SU President George “Jody” Harpster about developing a center for LGBT students on campus. When he returned to school this year, he was informed that a position had been created for him. Since then, he has been doing research and working with students and faculty to create a proposal for the center.
“It would kind of be like the Women’s Center or the Career and Community Engagement Center,” Bauer said. “Just a resource center for students, [and] also a place for them to go in between classes, or a safe space for students to connect with other students of the community.”
Bauer is in the process of applying to the Peace Corps. He says he would love to give back and join eventually, but for now it serves as a back-up plan. First he would like to see how the center develops and then he will decide what path he will take. Bauer said he hopes to see the center have a good structure before he graduates.
Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted DeGeneres and SU on Wednesday and said he would write a recommendation to the Peace Corps on Bauer’s behalf. Bauer said seeing the tweet made his heart stop.
“I just feel like every day something new happens that blows me away,” Bauer said. “The overwhelming support of my friends and family back at home and here was unbelievable, and then seeing that tweet was just the cherry on top.”
Podcast and video produced by Matt Trust/WSYC.