April 19, 2006: From the Editor
Like so many Princetonians, Douglas Nadeau ’62 retained a deep connection to his university after he graduated. Nadeau, who died in 2004, served as head of the Princeton Association of New England, and worked to set up a successful alumni mentoring project for schoolchildren in Boston. For his work, he was honored by the Alumni Council.
In 2000, Nadeau returned to campus for his 38th reunion as a woman, revealing a long-held secret to the classmates and community that had taught him so much and that he so admired. At the time, he also was suffering from a debilitating illness that later would take his life. In this issue, Pam Belluck ’85 writes sensitively about this alum, known to family members and classmates as Doug, and to those who met him later in his life as Donna. (Family members wanted the story to be told.) One friend, Joseph Irenas ’62, recalls Nadeau this way: “There are some people that life can deal tough circumstances to who continue to fight as best they can. Doug did that. ... He didn’t crawl into a corner, didn’t cover himself with a blanket.”
By family accounts, Nadeau’s coming-out at Princeton was a difficult and hurtful experience, and Nadeau soon turned for support to an alumni group: Fund For Reunion Inc./Princeton BTGALA, an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Princetonians. When the group was founded in 1986, many gay and lesbian alumni felt disaffected from Princeton and from the larger community. Even finding an appropriate name for the group was complicated. “Every name suggested scared somebody or offended somebody,” recalls Shawn Cowls ’87, president of FFR. “In those days, you didn’t want to even say ‘gay’ on the envelope. ... The thing about this name was that it was politically neutral.”
Today, about 1,000 alumni from classes dating to 1938 are members, along with current students, faculty, and staff. Cowls says membership has increased by nearly 50 percent within the last five years. The group has taken on a wide range of projects and activities, both social and academic. This year, Fund for Reunion is sponsoring two postdoctoral fellows in LGBT studies. It helped Princeton to provide a full-time adviser for LGBT students, and has supported student research in the fields of architecture, sociology, religion, English, and psychology. It also helps fund student activities and campus lectures, in addition to its social and networking programs for alumni.
“We’re seeing alumni now from all classes, including more and more older alumni,” says Cowls. “Our members are coming to Reunions in greater and greater numbers. ... This is why we started the organization. We wanted to make a difference on campus for the students, the alumni, and the University. We deeply love Princeton, but for all sorts of reasons people didn’t seem all that comfortable [there].”
Belluck’s article, about one alum who loved Princeton, begins on page 24.