UVM alumni, families, and friends gathered in New York City for a museum tour and reception one Saturday this fall. Similar gatherings happen all the time. But the particulars of this event—a tour of Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and reception at the Stonewall Inn, a gay civil rights landmark—made it particularly affirming for Sanford Friedman ’73, another milestone on the path of progress for the university and world he knew as a young gay man at UVM. 

Looking back, Friedman says that after growing up in a tiny town in northwestern New Jersey (one of just three Jewish students in a graduating class of 200), he went off to college determined “to learn to be a social person.” Friedman would come out as a gay man at UVM, noting that he also “came out of his withdrawn shell.” That meant getting involved in student activities and joining Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. Friedman is frank about struggles during student teaching when questions of his sexuality were whispered around the school. He credits Jackie Gribbons—“of blessed memory,” he interjects—and Kay Frances Schepp for creating alternate independent study paths to his degree.

Friedman reconnected with the university in the late nineties via the San Francisco Regional Board and was reminded of the like-minded spirit that bonds many alumni. “UVM is a special place. No matter what UVM event I have gone to, no matter what the age difference in the crowd, people always pick right up like old friends. There is something about the UVM experience, something about this university being the right size.”

As Friedman came to know Dot Brauer, past head of UVM’s LGBTQA Center (now known as the Prism Center), he was deeply impressed by the cutting-edge work in creating support networks and a welcoming campus climate. Together with Dr. Michael Upton ’94, he would co-found the affinity group of UVM LGBTQA alumni. And Friedman and his partner, Jerry Hipps, have made a bequest in support of LGBTQA student programs at UVM. After a successful career in the telecommunications industry, followed by consulting work helping entrepreneurs put business skills beneath their vision, Friedman is retired.

As keynote speaker at the Rainbow graduation-week event for LGBTQA students in 2015, Friedman told the new alumni that “it is always who you know that gives you a helping hand. Therefore, for us, or for any person in a minority, if you can build a relationship on that we both went to UVM, we’re both LGBTQA, then you have something to make yourself stand out.” Reflection on that talk, he adds, “I began developing socially and coming out of my shell at UVM. Since then, my life has really been about relationships.”

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Thomas Weaver