Stephen Donaldson

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Stephen Donaldson CC '70 was born Robert Anthony Martin, Jr. (July 27, 1946 – July 18, 1996). He was the founder of the Student Homophile League, the precursor to Columbia Queer Alliance. At the time of its founding, it was the first collegiate LGBT organization in the world.

Donaldson also helped found the Student Governing Board as a junior in 1968. [1] As a graduate student in religion, Donaldson was elected chair of the Student Governing Board in 1974 serving until 1977. [2] He also served as Assistant Director of Earl Hall.

Undergraduate years

Donaldson began at Columbia living in a suite in Carman Hall with four other male students. When his suitemates found out he was gay, they marched to the Dean David Truman's office and complained. The dean ended up assigning him a single in Livingston Hall (now Wallach) (Room 322) where he stayed for the rest of his undergraduate days [3]. His course of study was political science and international affairs, and he intended to become a journalist. He was a staff member at WKCR.

In October 1966, he began hatching his idea of a Student Homophile League, with the support of University Chaplain John Dyson Cannon. The Committee of Student Organizations demanded a list of members, but Donaldson and Cannon got around this by listing major student leaders in the membership who were straight.

On April 19, 1967, Columbia issued an official charter for the Student Homophile League. The Spectator reported that SHL included straight and gay students from Columbia, and one from Barnard. It's official headquarters were the offices of Chaplain Cannon [4].

Graduate years

In 1974, Stephen Donaldson (who was then using the name Robert Martin), became chair of the Student Governing Board, as well as Assistant Director of Earl Hall. He was a doctoral student and a teaching assistant in the religion department, and was also a student at UTS.

In December 1976, Martin was arrested in Jacksonville, North Carolina for "felonious possession of marijuana." [5] The charges were dismissed in February 1977. [6].

He wrote about his experiences as a graduate student running SGB and the now-renamed Gay People at Columbia: ""I enjoyed my somewhat legendary status, but the socially-oriented group did not offer any outlets for my energy, so I have my main attention to the SGB. Dances, parties and the dorm raps were the main activities; of political activism there was virtually none."

In 1992, Donaldson wrote: ""I do not know what the GPC is like today, a whole generation of students having passed since I left Columbia. Let our struggles, our achievements, our history be not forgotten as have those of so many minorities." [7]


Donaldson died of AIDS-related complications a week before his 50th birthday on July 19, 1996 [8].

Lounge and memorial

On Friday, November 15, 1996, the Student Gay Lounge in the basement of Furnald Hall was renanamed the Stephen Donaldson Lounge in Donaldson's memory. Hunter College professor Wayne Dynes gave remarks formally installed the plaque. Another speaker was Dean Peter Awn. President George Rupp, Provost Jonathan Cole, University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, and Assoc. Dean Kathryn Yatrakis attended the ceremony. [9]

Donaldson left his library and assorted LGBT memorabilia to the LGBT student groups at Columbia.