Word came to me yesterday that Dolores Noll, a dear friend, passed away on Tuesday morning, January 8th. I met Dolores in 1975 and worked with her until about 1980 at Kent State University’s Kent Gay Liberation Front (KGLF) where she was Faculty Advisor. Then later we teamed up again at Cleveland’s Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center from 1989 to 1992.
Her obituary was published today in the Akron Beacon Journal:
Dolores and her partner of 37 years Pat Hatfield lived in an assisted living center in South Carolina. Dolores Noll had severe dementia. Pat remembers, and speaks fondly of her partner. To her, Dolores was a compassionate, kind and funny woman with a habit of always needing to be in charge. Dolores Noll was the first Kent State University Diversity Trailblazer Award recipient to Professor Emeritus of English. The award was presented to Dr. Noll by Dr. Lester Lefton and Kent State’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alfreda Brown in 2010.
Dolores Noll was a national pioneer in gay and lesbian issues, Noll was an early contributor to Kent State’s own history of supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies. That history goes back to 1972, when Noll became the first professor to teach a gay and lesbian issues course at Kent State. She was also a co-founder and adviser to the Kent Gay Liberation Front, now called PRIDE! Kent, one of the oldest gay rights student organizations in the country.
This picture with Dolores above appeared in the 1977 Chestnut Burr, Kent State’s yearbook. From left to right is myself; Michael Anderson, my boyfriend at the time; [someone please remind me]; Wendy Gaylord; Dolores Noll and Bill Hoover. The caption read, “Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Kent Gay Liberation Front is perhaps the oldest existing organization of its type. Members work for the right of human beings to choose a sexual life style and to live free from the harassment of government, society and other persons. At Kent the group supplies speakers, information and social functions.”
I last saw Dolores (left) on September 7, 2013, when I visited her and her companion Pat in Stow, Ohio, where I took this picture. At the time I wrote on Facebook, “I had a delightful visit last night with Dolores Noll and her companion, Pat. Dolores was Faculty Advisor for the Kent Gay Liberation Front (KGLF) at Kent State where I came out in 1975. She’s been a dear friend ever since. We had the opportunity to work together again in the early 90s at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland where I was Board President. She asked me to pass along greetings to Wendy Gaylord, Susan Schnur and others.”
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, I posted a video with Dolores on my Gay Video of the Week series on Facebook and my website. The post was in honor of National Coming Out Day observed each year on October 11th. I did several coming out posts each Saturday that October and wrapped up the month with a bit about my own story.
I’ll close tonight with that installment of Gay Video of the Week:
Dolores Noll & My Coming Out
The LGBT community celebrates Coming Out Day each October 11th. I’ve been observing the occasion all month here at ‘Gay Video of the Week’. Continuing the theme, I’d like to share a bit of my experience at Kent State University. I came out at KSU 42 years ago this week. It’s kind of a funny (and slightly embarrassing) story that I’ll share sometime in my blog. On Friday night, October 24, 1975, I steeled my nerves and walked into the ‘The Men’s Rap’ held weekly in the Student Center by Kent Gay Liberation Front (KGLF). My life would never be the same again.
I met many terrific people through KGLF, including Wendy Gaylord, Bill Hoover and Lee Evans to name just a few. But today I want to focus on Dolores Noll. Dolores was an English professor at Kent. She served as the organization’s Faculty Advisor — and was also truly its matriarch. Quoting from the Record-Courier in Kent,
“Dolores had gone to New York and connected with the gay liberation front there and came back to Kent,” said Molly Merryman, director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. “She came out as a lesbian in 1970 and nobody was really doing that then. She was very brave and that was rare for people to do. After the May 4 shootings, KSU had been closed down. The governor cut off funding and the university ended up creating an ‘experimental college’ and that was an effort to create courses where students could stay enrolled. Dolores proposed what she called as the ‘Gay Womanhood’ class and taught it back in 1971. That was the very first LGBTQ class.”
Dolores has been a friend, comrade, role model and inspiration to me and to all of us. After Kent I had the opportunity and honor to work with her again in the 1990s when we both served on the board at Cleveland’s Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center. Back at KSU, even after she retired and was a Professor Emeritus, Dolores continued her involvement with Kent’s LGBT community. By that time KGLF had changed its name to Pride! Kent.
In 2010 Dolores was awarded Kent’s first Diversity Trailblazer Award in recognition of her pioneering work in the movement. Today’s video talks about the award and includes a clip of her acceptance speech.
This is a sad loss. Dolores was more than just a friend. She leaves a powerful and lasting legacy that’s had a true impact advancing LGBT rights in this country.
I may post more in coming days. For now I welcome your remembrances of Dolores.
Title image: From Dolores Noll’s Facebook page.
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