I met Doug at a meeting at Paul Smith’s College one winter night in 1973. I read a blurb in the Enterprise about an effort to create youth hostels in the Adirondacks. I’d recently completed a three-month trip through Europe, had stayed in dozens of hostels and had found them to provide great inexpensive lodging, so I thought the idea was worth introducing to the Adirondacks.
Doug was an ideas guy. I’ve met a lot of ideas people and usually was frustrated by them. Their ideas are like little fires. They run around lighting them but never tend them and leave them for others to fuel or put out. Not Doug. He not only churned out ideas, but he also created teams to make sure they came to life.
His wife Cynthia said, "He could walk into a room with an idea and by the time he left he would have everybody in the room wanting that same idea." She added, "He had an enthusiasm that was very catching."
Doug saw my enthusiasm for Youth Hostels and before I knew it, I found myself Chair of North Country Youth Hostels in charge of Hostels in Paul Smith’s, Malone, and the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. The goal was to establish Youth Hostels throughout the Adirondacks. At one point we had seven, but unfortunately, they didn’t last because the idea hasn’t caught on in the U.S. like it has in other parts of the world.
I became an adjunct faculty member under his tutelage and enthusiastically made the hour commute to Malone. Eventually I worked full-time under his leadership serving the Malone Campus in a variety of roles. I was student advisor to all the campus’ students, advisor to Student Government, veterans’ counselor, (there were many veteran students as the Vietnam War wound down) and taught a variety of Physical Education and Recreation courses. Doug was the ideal administrator, supporting me in my work and leading the community in numerous projects. I once caught at ride to Malone with the NCCC President at the time. He said, “I have to go to Malone regularly just to remind people that Kelley isn’t the President of the college.”
Before President Obama popularized the term, Doug was a community organizer but I’m not sure the community of Malone realized what a gem he was. He created the Malone Community Council, a group of community leaders that spearheaded many of his ideas. Besides starting North Country Youth Hostels, he led the revitalization of the old Ballard Mill, where Malone wool pants were once made, and which is now the site of the NCCC Malone Campus. He got the dam at the mill producing electricity and brought innumerable young and talented people to the community. He started the Mohawk Craft Cooperative to help market the handmade products made on the Mohawk Reservation.
He picked up hitchhikers all the time and encouraged them to move to Malone and Saranac Lake like he did Elden Housinger. Doug got a grant for Elden to bicycle every road in the Adirondack Park and write the first Adirondack bicycle guide. Both Malone and Saranac Lake have former hitchhikers that Doug brought to town.
But it’s the things I’ve learned about Doug in the past year that continue to amaze me. If you were a resume builder, you'd have a hard time matching his. He had a scar over his eye, acquired in the early sixties when he was hit with a Coke bottle while visiting Mississippi State University. The purpose of his visit was to recruit for the Encampment for Citizenship which emphasized youth activism and working for social justice, two things violently opposed in the South where segregation and Jim Crow were alive and well.
He was in his twenties when he conceived of and piloted the International Development Placement Association, a concept that would later become the Peace Corps. Doug received a telegram from President John F. Kennedy’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, whom Kennedy tasked with staffing the new organization. It read, “If you want to work on Peace Corps, come to Washington Monday. We may be able to use you right away.” He became the Corps’ first national community relations director.
Doug had a fascinating list of accomplishments. He was arrested in the civil rights movement for participating in a sit-in. He got an “A” from Henry Kissinger in a class at Harvard. He photographed and corresponded with Eleanor Roosevelt on several occasions. He rubbed elbows with such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Adlai Stevenson, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, and Pete Seeger. But I knew none of that until after he died.
I knew so little about him because Doug was rarely about Doug. Instead, he was about implementing his ideas and helping others.
As I said, Doug was an ideas guy. And when it comes to ideas guys, he was the best.