Guide to the Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories, 2015-2016
Collection consists of computer files comprising oral histories conducted by students with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, or Queer (LGBTQ) Duke alumni. The oral histories document the inviduduals' experiences as members of the LGBTQ community before, during, and after their time at Duke. The alumni attended Duke between the mid-1970s and 2000s and describe experiences at and around Duke and Durham, North Carolina from a variety of perspectives and time periods. The oral histories were collected as part of the Spring 2015 class LGBTQ History and Activism: Duke, Durham, and Beyond. Computer files include audio files (WAV and MP3), field notes and tape logs (DOC and DOCX), and the occasional supporting document file.
- Record Group
- Duke Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Alumni oral histories
- Duke University. Center for Documentary Studies
- 7.8 Gigabytes
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials in English
Collection consists of computer files comprising oral histories conducted by students with LGBTQ Duke alumni in 2015 and 2016. The oral histories document the inviduduals' experiences as members of the LGBTQ community before, during, and after their time at Duke. The alumni attended Duke between the mid-1970s and 2000s and describe experiences at and around Duke and Durham, North Carolina from a variety of perspectives and time periods.
Some interviews also compare the LGBTQ experience at Duke and in Durham to other locations around the country over different time periods.
Collection arranged into series: Oral Histories, 2015.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Electronic records in this collection have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room. To request access, please contact Research Services before coming to use these records.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
In many cases, the copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Duke LGBTQ Alumni Oral Histories, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
This series includes oral history recordings in electronic form, along with electronic field notes and tape logs. The interview subjects are Duke alumni interviewed as part of the service-learning course LGBTQ History and Activism: Duke, Durham, and Beyond in Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.
Electronic records in this series have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room. To request access, please contact Research Services before coming to use these records.
David Anderson was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. He attended Duke between 1985 and 1989 as an Angier B. Duke (AB) Scholar. He co-founded the reconstituted Duke Gay and Lesbian Association (DGLA, later Duke Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Association, Gothic Queers, Alliance of Queer Undergraduates [AQUADuke], and Blue Devils United). He also participated in Hoof 'n' Horn and Duke Chapel Choir. He currently runs a music business in Raleigh. Anderson is interviewed twice by different interviewers. In multiple interviews, Anderson talks about his family background. Anderson also discusses discovering his sexuality during his first year at Duke, and the prolonged process of coming out. Of note is his discussion about his isolation and the lack of resources for gay students at Duke at the time. Although the DGLA existed at the time, Anderson discusses its secretive nature during his first years at Duke and how this and other events factored into making rechartering the organization as an open and visible presence in 1988. He further describes the fears around openness and some of DGLA's public activities. He describes casual homophobia he experienced at Duke. Also discussed are the differences between Duke and Durham's environment for LGBTQ people, the importance of mentorship to LGBTQ young people in the late 1980s, and how the Duke community reacted to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Also included are a formal paper by Anderson describing his experience at the first Blue Jeans Day in 1988 as well as his personal notes created in preparation for the oral history interview.
Christopher Bragg was born in Elon, North Carolina. He studied psychology at Duke University, graduating in 1990. During his undergraduate years at Duke, Bragg worked in research labs at Duke Medicine and served as a peer counselor. Bragg continued his education at UNC-Chapel Hill where he attained a Ph. D. in neuroscience. In 2000, Bragg moved to Boston to complete a post doctorate at Harvard. As of 2016, Bragg runs a laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. In this oral history, Bragg describes on his early family life. He discusses LGBTQ progress at Duke during the late 1980s, comparing, throughout, the environment at Duke to that at Yale, as well as to Durham and Chapel Hill, and finally to Boston and Harvard. Bragg also describes the creation and fostering of community during this time by the Duke Gay and Lesbian Association (DGLA). Bragg also mentions the pushback from some to the increasing visibility of LGBTQ people at Duke. Also described is the differences in experience between the men and women in DGLA. Bragg talks about sexual expression as an undergraduate and how it was affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Daniel Ellison grew up in New York and Miami before attending college at Duke University, from where he graduated in 1977. He later received graduate degrees in both folklore and law from the University of North Carolina. Ellison founded the Durham Arts Place after graduating and became involved in activism. Over the years, Dan has become involved in the Duke LGTBQ Network, and as of 2016 teaches classes as an adjunct professor at Duke on Non-Profit Cultural Institutions and the intersection of law, identity, and the performing arts. In this oral history, Ellison describes the broader culture at Duke in the mid-1970s. Ellison talks about his own sexual identity as one of ambivalence during his years at Duke. Ellison discusses the differences between LGBTQ life during his student years at Duke and the LGBTQ life he observes as an adjunct professor and involved faculty member. Also discusses is activism around LGBTQ rights in Durham and the surrounding area.
Meredith Emmett graduated from Duke University in 1982 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She likes to say that she “majored in activism and minored in engineering,” due to her involvement with the North Carolina Policy Interest Research Group (NC PIRG). Following graduation, she began working as a carpenter. Emmett has worked in energy conservation and served as the director of three non-profit organizations. As of 2016, Emmett lives in Durham and works as coach and trainer for non-profits. In this oral history, Emmett discusses her activism on campus. Emmett talks about the difference between issue- and identity-based activism, and that her years at Duke saw more issue movements than identity movements. Other topics include how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected Emmett personally, mentors Karl Wittman and Allen Troxler, organizing a gay pride march in the early 1980s, and her experience with Pride PAC (later Equality NC).
Kelly Jarrett attended Duke in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and later worked for the university until 2014. At Duke, Jarrett was an instructor in the Department of Religion, an assitant managing editor at Duke University Press, and an administrator in the Duke Islamic Studies Center. She was a founding member of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, which was formed after a series of race, gender, and sexual orientation-based aggressions against her and her partner. In this oral history, Jarrett describes her gender and sexual identity, her life in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast, and her current work. She contrasts her experiences with the relationship between Duke and Durham with those at Yale and New Haven. She also speaks of the differences between the graduate and undergraduate student life in terms of LGBTQ identity. Also discussed are the institutional issues regarding the treatement of and respect for sexual, gender, and racial minorities.
Tim Koch attended Duke from 1979 to 1983, and later attended Boston University and Arizona State University. He has worked as a pastor, professor of divinity, and lawyer. As of 2016, he lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. In this oral history, Koch describes his upbringing, the realization of his sexuality, and his early experiences in a church youth group. He also discusses his years at Duke, and contrasts his early experiences at Duke to those after a study abroad stint in England. Also discussed are Koch's AIDS diagnosis, the invisibility of the queer community during his student years, and the changes he saw upon returning to Duke in the 1990s.
Steve Ritchie attended Duke in the late 1980s, graduating in 1990, and later earned an Masters in Business Administration from Dartmouth. Though not out during his time at Duke, his attendance overlapped with the Duke Gay and Lesbian Alliance Blue Jeans Day and other campus events increasing LGBTQ visibility at the university. As of 2016, Ritchie lived and worked in Seattle, Washington. In this oral history, Ritchie discusses his upbringing in the rural Midwest, his experience at Duke in the 1980s, and his experiences since moving on from Duke. He contrasts his experience at Duke and Dartmouth, and contextualizes many of his specific observations by discussing the state of overall LGBTQ life in the United States.
Beth Ann Koelsch was born in Buck's County, Pennsylvania. She attended Duke in 1985 and from 1986-1990. She has lived in Durham, North Carolina since then, working a variety of jobs including food service, the Duke Women's Center, the Durham Food Co-Op, and LadySlipper. As of 2016, she is curator for the Women's Veterans History Project at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. In this oral history, Koelsch talks about her early life in Pennsylvania, her life at Duke, and her post-graduation professional life. Koelsch describes Duke's environment in the late 1980s. She describes coming out to her roommate, meeting her partner at WXDU, and activism--both nationally and on campus. Koelsch discusses gay and lesbian-friendly workplaces in Durham, as well as her work life in Durham and Greensboro. Other topics of discussion include the idea of outing celebrities and politicians in the 1980s, the treatment of gays and lesbians in campus, local, and national publications, and the changes in the treatment of LGBTQ people at Duke and in Durham since her years as a student.
Raised in Anchorage, Alaska and Burlington, North Carolina, Daniel Miller attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and attended graduate school at duke in the mid 2000s, earning an MAT in 2007. As of 2016, he works as a teacher of English at Jordan High School. In this oral history, Miller discusses the intersection between education and identity, coming out and how it affected his relationship with his father, and experiences as a gay educator in a public school system. Miller also describes the LGBTQ communities in Anchorage, Burlington, Durham, and Raleigh, and at UNC. In addition, Miller discusses the change in LGBTQ identity over time.
Seth Pardo attended Duke in the late 1990s and early 2000s, graduating in 2003. He later earned a PhD at Cornell. As of 2015, Pardo taught at the California School fo Professional Psychology and worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. In this oral history, Pardo discusses his family ties to Duke, the development of his academic and personal interest in gender identities and identity formation, and his attempts at connection with the transgender community in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Pardo also describes his difficulty seeking help from Duke's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), but also the support offered from his family and friends. Also discussed is the increased acceptance at Duke in recent years as well as advice for future generations.
Connie Pearcy was raised in Arkansas and attended Duke in the 1990s, serving as Student Body President during her senior year and graduating in 1996. As of 2015, Pearcy worked in the information technology field. In this oral history, Pearcy discusses her recent marriage to her partner of many years, their children, and her work life. She also describes her coming out at school and the considerations involved in coming out to her family. Also discussed are intersectionality, the differences in experience for gay white women versus gay women of color. Pearcy further describes the LGBTQ community at Duke in the 1990s, including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Blue Jeans Day.
As of June 2016, a Rubenstein Library release form has not been signed. Access to this oral history is restricted at this time.
Dr. Jerome Smith was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He attended Duke in the late 1980s, graduating from the Pratt School of Engineering in 1990. At Duke, he was active in the Duke Chapel Choir and various theatre groups. He later earned his medical degree from George Washington University. As of 2016, Smith lives and works in Sonoma, California. In this oral history, Smith discusses the development of his sexual identity. Smith describes viewing his desire for having and raising children as mutually exclusive from being an out gay man. He also describes his impressions of Durham's intolerance and his lack of awareness of Durham LGBTQ communities. In comparing experiences as a Duke student to those as a medical student at George Washington, Smith describes experiencing discrimination at the latter, which he attributes to being out during this time whereas he was closeted at Duke.
Leslie Tobin is a Duke alumna who transferred from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania in 1973. At Duke, she was active in the Duke Gay Alliance (DGA) and the Lesbian Rap Group (later Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists [TALF]. After graduation, Leslie became a carpenter and later went on to own their own construction company. As of 2016, Tobin is married and living in Durham with her wife close to Duke campus. In this oral history, Tobin discusses her experiences at Duke in the 1970s, the first time coming together in community with LGBTQ people, and defining her identity as a lesbian. Of particular note is her discussion of the split between the DGA and TALF. Tobin describes raising a child as a lesbian. Also included are discussions of Tobin's carpentry and construction, as well as lesbian activism around AIDS, racism, and religious violence.
Katherine Turner attended Duke from 1986-1990. While at Duke, Turner was active with the Peer Information Service for Counseling and Education in Sexuality (PISCES) Center. After graduation, she served in the Peace Corps and attended UNC-Chapel Hill's Public Health program. As of 2016, Turner lives in Durham and serves on the programming committee of the Duke Human Rights Center's Pauli Murray Project. In this oral history, Turner describes her activities on campus as a student with PISCES, writing for the Duke Women's Handbook, and pushback from other student groups. Turner further discusses the varying degrees of being out students may be, as well as the transgender community on campus. Also described are queer spaces in the Durham community, LGBTQ-specific events at Duke and in Durham, and stigma around the gay community and AIDS. Turner later describes her current connection to Duke and how the activism she was involved with at Duke has continued in her life.
During the Spring 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters, students enrolled in a course titled LGBTQ History and Activism: Duke, Durham, and Beyond conducted oral history interviews with Duke alumni about their involvement in the LGBTQ movement before, during, and after their time at Duke.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Anderson, David
- Beth Ann, Koelsch
- Bragg, Christopher
- Duke University. Center for Documentary Studies
- Emmett, Meredith
- Ellison, Daniel
- Jerome, Smith
- Jarrett, Kelly
- Koch, Tim
- Pearcy, Connie
- Pardo, Seth
- Ritchie, Steve
- Turner, Katherine
- Tobin, Leslie
- Community activists -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Coming out (sexual orientation) -- United States
- Duke University -- Students
- Duke University -- Students -- Political activity
- Gay pride celebrations
- Gays -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Gay community -- North Carolina
- Gay community -- United States
- Homosexuality -- Southern States
- Lesbians -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Lesbian feminism -- United States
- Lesbian community -- North Carolina
- Oral history interviews
- Sexual minorities -- United States
The Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a transfer in 2015 and 2016. The electronic files were transferred via Box.
Processed by Matthew Farrell, February and June 2016
Accessions described in this collection guide: UA2015-0058, UA2016-0029