About two dozen people gathered at Kent State University’s LGBTQ Student Center this past Monday, February 11th, to remember and honor Dr. Dolores Noll. Dolores was a friend, comrade, role model and inspiration to me personally — and also to the LGBT community far and wide.
It was not exactly a sad event because there was too much to celebrate. Dolores lived a long and vital life, leaving a legacy that will touch generations to come. She was an early warrior in our movement. And I suspect she had a damn good time along the way!
It was a bit surreal this week driving through Kent and arriving at the Student Center. It’s been a few decades since I was there. It was different, yet very much the same and familiar. The drinking fountains didn’t seem that low. I walked along the path where a Bible thumper condemned homosexuality on the very day I attended the first gay meeting of my life — Friday, October 17, 1975.
I walked through the first floor cafeteria, now a food court, where in 1975 I read letters in the Daily Kent Stater by Wendy Gaylord which steeled my courage to finally come out that Friday night in October. And I remembered Dolores — meeting and visiting with her in her office, the annual conferences we organized, the talks and presentations we did together, and our work together years later in Cleveland at the Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center (now the LGBT Community Center) where I was President of the Board from 1989 to 1992. Dolores joined the Board and served unpaid as Acting Executive Director while we sought funding to hire our first permanent director. She later succeeded me as President.
Once inside the Student Center I found my way to the LGBTQ Student Center, a small but very cheerful, comfortable and inviting space in the basement. Opened in 2017, the Center is a huge achievement and a testament to Dolores’ legacy.
Immediately inside Dolores’ 1961 faculty photo was on display.
As people gathered for the evening I met and chatted with folks, and looked around.
I was especially happy to see old friends dating back to our years in KGLF, Bill Hoover and Lee Evans.
The program opened with introductions and comments by Dr. Molly Merryman, Director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and Vice President for the International Visual Sociology Association; and Ken Ditlevson, Director of the LGBTQ Student Center.
Next was a talk by retired faculty member, Wilma Crawford, who shared stories and fond remembrances of Dolores. She was followed by Dr. Alfreda Brown, Vice President for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Kent State.
Bill Hoover then spoke about the early days when he and Dolores pioneered this new groundbreaking organization, the challenges they faced, and the different yet complimentary styles he and Dolores applied in overcoming them. Among the events he mentioned is when we did a Speakers Bureau presentation inside the prison walls at the now-closed Mansfield Reformatory — an experience I will never forget!
When I spoke I spent my time reading statements sent by Pat Hatfield, Dolores’ partner of 37 years, and Wendy Gaylord, one of my dearest friends and a fellow KGLF warrior now living in Australia.
On the wall in the LGBTQ Student Center is the “Noll Queer Bell of Progress.” Formerly the Pink Bell, it has now been renamed in Dolores’ honor. The bell was described in KentWIRED.com’s coverage of the Center’s grand opening.
Katie Matisse, the program coordinator for the LGBTQ Center, presented the “Pink Queer Bell of Progress” for [KSU President Beverly] Warren to ring, which concluded the event.
“We’re gonna ring (the bell) loud and proud, we’re gonna ring it so that it reverberates — we’re gonna ring it so that it makes a noise of welcoming and it makes a noise of ‘we are here and part of this community,’” Warren said.
Ringing of the bell is reserved for momentous victories. Thanks to Dr. Dolores Noll, I think we’ll be hearing it often!
Title image courtesy of Chris Sweet
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