Coming Out: Dolores Noll
In honor of Women’s History Month, Kent State Today will be looking at the accomplishments of Kent State women who have advanced the cause of women, broken glass ceilings and left a lasting impact on women’s history.
A trailblazer for LGBTQ+ rights, the late Dolores Noll, Ph.D., Professor Emeritas of English, was one of Kent State University’s first openly gay professors when she came out in 1971.
Noll came to Kent State in 1961 as an instructor in the Department of English and became an assistant professor upon completing a doctorate.
In 1971, she helped to form Kent State’s first LGBTQ+ student organization, the Kent Gay Liberation Front, which held its meetings at her home. Noll was the founding faculty advisor to the organization, now known as PRIDE! Kent, making it the country’s oldest continuously operating LGBTQ+ student organization.
In 1972, Noll became the first professor to teach a gay and lesbian course at Kent State. The course, “Gay Womanhood,” was taught in the Experimental College. At the time, it was one of only a few gay courses taught in universities nationwide.
Born Aug. 14, 1930, in Fairfield, Iowa, and raised in Berea, Kentucky, Noll received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 1951 and earned a master’s degree in 1954 and a doctorate in 1964, both from the University of Kentucky.
Noll served as assistant to the chair of English from 1978 until her retirement in 1984. She was well-published in scholarly journals of both medieval literature and LGBTQ studies. She taught three different LGBTQ studies courses at Kent State,
Her role in establishing and co-coordinating the national Gay Caucus for the Modern Language Association was recognized with the establishment of the Crompton-Noll award, which recognizes the work of LGBTQ scholarship within the MLA.
She and her partner of 37 years, Pat Hatfield, met at Kent State.
In 2010, as Professor Emeritus of English, Noll was honored with Kent State’s first-ever Diversity Trailblazer Award.
In January 2019, she passed away at the age of 88.