25 for 25 voices of Rutgers University LGBTQA alumni

James F. Dougherty

James F. Dougherty

“My advice to current LGBTQIA students at Rutgers would be to listen to your “inner voice.” Don’t worry about what you think others think of you. Be Brave. You always have a family (even if they are not related to you)” – James F. Dougherty, ’74

My name is James F. Dougherty (he/him), and I graduated from Rutgers College in 1974 with a degree in Biological Sciences, then received my MS in Animal Science from the Rutgers Graduate School in 1975. During my first two years at Rutgers, I struggled to try to discuss my feelings with my sophomore roommate but never succeeded. I was so afraid that he would hate me if I disclosed my feelings to him. I regret not coming out to him to this day. My junior year, I was more successful and found friendship and mutual interests in two of my dorm neighbors.  Even though we remained closeted, I was relieved to have friends like that. To this day, I am still in contact with one of them.

When I was either in my second or third year, I thought about getting involved with what was then called the “Rutgers University Homophile League.”  The office was upstairs in the College Avenue Student Center. I don’t know how many times I went up there but never went in. But I felt reassured that it existed and knew that I was not alone. In 1974, I believe the first “Blue Jean Day” was held, and it was fun to see so many people appear a bit uncomfortable.  Rutgers’ close proximity to NYC allowed me to go into the city, mostly alone, to discover a more open lifestyle.

Since graduating from Rutgers, I went to veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, graduated in 1980, and then participated in an internship and a residency there. During my time there, gay people seemed to be more open about their identities (late 70’s early 80’s). I was an early participant in what started out as being called “AgVets,” which stands for Association of Gay Veterinarians. We formed a rather informal network which, over the years, has changed names about five or six times but is recognized in probably all veterinary schools.  In veterinary medicine, I started a specialty and emergency hospital called Metropolitan Veterinary Associates with a close lesbian friend from vet school. She has since passed away but the practice is now in its 32nd year. I’m proud to say that we have a diverse group of employees, and everyone is accepted.

I remain involved at Rutgers as the Vice Chair on the Rutgers University Board of Trustees and a member on the Advisory Boards of the Executive Dean of SAS, the Tyler Clementi Center and the School of Public Health.

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James F. Dougherty

James F. Dougherty with dogs