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    Tom Nolan: Recipient of the 2024 Openhouse Adelman/ Gurevitch Founders Award

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman–

    It is spring and time for the Openhouse annual Spring Fling event, and with it, the presentation of the Openhouse Adelman/Gurevitch Founders Award to acknowledge individuals who have made a significant contribution to Openhouse’s mission and the lives of LGBTQ older adults. The first awardee was Art Agnos in 2008; he had been a key advisor to Openhouse from its inception. Last year’s awardee was Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi, for her work in advancing the rights of LGBTQ seniors and people living with HIV/AIDS.

    This year it is my honor to present the Founders award to a friend and colleague who has dedicated his life to public service, Tom Nolan. Tom was one of the first openly LGBTQ+ elected officials in the country as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. During the AIDS crisis, he led San Mateo County’s response to the crisis.  

    When Tom was sworn into office in January of 1985, San Mateo County had barely acknowledged that AIDS might be in the county. Despite intense resistance to addressing AIDS and the needs of LGBTQ+ county residents, Tom used the power of his position to make the public and decision makers recognize and respond with compassion to the AIDS crisis.

    He created the AIDS Task Force, and through that body, began an educational campaign including testing, information, and access to care. He brought panels of the AIDS Quilt to the San Mateo County Fair and held AIDS marches and vigils in the County Court House. He also helped establish an AIDS Hospice modeled after Coming Home Hospice in San Francisco.

    After Tom termed off the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, he went on to succeed Ruth Brinker as the Executive Director of Project Open Hand (1994), a Bay Area nonprofit providing meals to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Tom expanded and broadened Project Open Hand’s client base to include homebound older adults and people living with a critical illness.

    Tom Nolan

    From 2009 to 2017, Tom chaired the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency where he was a champion of affordable, sustainable, and safe public transit. After retiring from Project Open Hand in 2012, Tom served as the Manager of Special Projects for the SF Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS), where he was the department’s liaison on all projects related to the city’s LGBTQ+ older adults.

    For more than a decade, Tom was the DAS liaison to LGBTQ+ older adults projects. When a project was bogged down by a difficult issue, Tom’s trusted leadership brought people back together to keep projects and programs moving forward. He is strategic, kind, respectful, funny, and soft-spoken; time and again I witnessed Tom solving problems and moving projects forward to successful completion. He is a man of grace and compassion who has made a difference in all our lives. 

    Tom Nolan is a pioneer in gay rights, a lifetime leader in HIV/AIDS advocacy, and a champion of LGBTQ+ older adults, whose leadership has been pivotal in helping create San Francisco’s infrastructure of services and programs for our aging LGBTQ+ community. 

    Dr. Marcy Adelman, a psychologist and LGBTQ+ longevity advocate and policy adviser, oversees the Aging in Community column. She serves on the California Commission on Aging, the California Behavioral Health Task Force, the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California, and the San Francisco Dignity Fund Oversight and San Francisco Advisory Committees. She also serves as a Senior Advisor to the LGBTQIA+ Older Adults in California survey and is the Co-Founder of Openhouse, the only San Francisco nonprofit exclusively focused on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ older adults.

    Aging in Community
    Published on April 4, 2024