SHL Founder Stephen "Donnie" Donaldson

Remembered by Ray Smith

Stephen "Donnie" Donaldson, who in 1966 founded the Columbia Student Homophile League (SHL), died of AIDS-related illness on July 19, 1996. Named Robert A. Martin at birth, he adopted the pseudonym "Stephen Donaldson" to protect his identity during the pre-Stonewall years of the gay-rights movement. At the time of its founding, the SHL —from which today's LBGC (Lesbian Bisexual Gay Coalition) is descend—was the world' first gay and lesbian student group. The University's decision in 1967 to provide a charter for the organization was so unprecedented that it made the front page of The New York Times. Donnie went on to earn the B.A. from Columbia College, and to undertake work towards the Ph.D. in religion in the Graduate School.

Donnie was as eclectic in his interests as he was eccentric in personality. In addition to his gay-rights work, at various points in his life Donnie was a sailor, a journalist, a Buddhist priest, a student of Hinduism, a Quaker activist, a founder of the bisexual movement, a member of Mensa, and a punk rocker. Victim of a gang rape while imprisoned after an anti-Vietnam protest in the early 1970s, Donnie had in recent years headed the group "Stop Prison Rape," making many media appearances on behalf of this effort.

A longtime resident of Morningside Heights, Donnie was also, at the time of his death, a member of the Columbia University Seminar on the Homosexualities (CUSH), and had planned to be involved with the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the SHL this fall. Donnie died seven days short of his fiftieth birthday.

From GABLES Community News, Volume 5, Number 1 -- September 1996

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