Joanne Easely Arnold (Engl’52, MJour’65, PhDCommThtr’71), a longtime CU-Boulder faculty member and activist for gay and lesbian rights, celebrated from her Boulder hospital room when she learned in late June the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
Karen Raforth, CU-Boulder’s director of counseling and psychological services, visited her with the news.
“Jo, I’ve got some news I can’t wait to tell you about,” Raforth remembers saying. “Then, I told her, ‘DOMA has been overturned.’ We were so jubilant. Her nurse was so happy, and her son was looking up all the details on the web for her.”
Later that day, Arnold — whose persistence on equal rights spurred lasting changes at CU — died. She was 83.
Arnold taught at Boulder High School and CU-Boulder. From 1975 to 1981, she served as the university’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. She also served as associate dean of the journalism school.
“We will miss her great wit, incisive mind and generous spirit, and our thoughts are with her family, friends, colleagues and former students,” Chancellor Phil DiStefano said.
In 1993, at age 63, Arnold came out publicly as a lesbian during a faculty panel discussion on gay faculty members in higher education. Her public “coming out” was post-Amendment 2, which barred laws protecting gays from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Arnold served as first chair of the Boulder Chancellor’s Standing Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues in 1993. The committee has brought forward such major initiatives as domestic partner health insurance and a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Alumni Association chapter.
Jean Dubofsky, an attorney who successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Amendment 2, says Arnold was one of the first to publicly support the effort and was an early fundraiser for GLBT issues.
She donated more than $100,000, endowing scholarships to honor her heroes. She named a scholarship in the education school after former women’s basketball coach Ceal Barry, now associate athletics director.
In journalism she supported the Mary Frances Berry Scholarship to honor CU’s first and only female chancellor. Two of Arnold’s scholarships honor Dubofsky. And Arnold endowed the Karen Raforth Scholarship.
Raforth led an effort to create the Joanne Easley Arnold English Scholars Fund for Arnold’s 80th birthday — and many friends donated to the cause.
“The fact that her friends raised money for her — and that someone would name a scholarship for her — was one of the most cherished things for Joanne,” says Kimberly Bowman, development director for CU’s arts and sciences college.
Arnold is survived by her son, Skip Arnold, of Boulder, two granddaughters, a great-grandson and a great-granddaughter.
A longer version of this story by Brittany Anas (Jour’04) appeared in the Daily Camera July 1, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission from the Camera.