Oral History Session #1
January 5, 2018
Transcript Production Team:
Kathryn Tracy Rizzi
Fell, Donald. Oral History Interview, January 5, 2018, by Shaun Illingworth, Page #, Rutgers Oral History Archives. Online: Insert URL (Last Accessed: Insert Date).
Donald Fell was born in 1943 in Anniston, Alabama. He grew up in New Jersey and went to Freeman School in Philipsburg, New Jersey from 1949 to 1957. He attended Philipsburg High School from 1957 to 1961, where he participated in intramural wrestling and basketball and excelled in academics, graduating eighth of his class. He applied to numerous institutions of higher education and decided to attend Rutgers College on the New Jersey State Scholarship.
At Rutgers from 1961 to 1965, Fell majored in History and Political Science, joined the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, and participated in Air Force ROTC. He was awarded the title of Distinguished Military Graduate of the AFROTC. After earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa and graduating from Rutgers College in the Class of 1965, he joined the Air Force.
He completed basic training at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. As a result of his training, he obtained the position of radar controller, or weapons controller, where his job required him to control aircraft with a radar. He played a support role in the Vietnam War, monitoring the B-52s traveling from Guam to Vietnam. During his military service, he served in numerous locations and units, initially in Sweetwater, Texas with the Sweetwater Air Force Squadron from 1965-1967, and then in Taiwan with the Olaunpi Nationalist Chinese Air Force from 1967-1968. Finally, he was sent to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, where he served as an instructor in the Weapons Controller School until he was discharged in August of 1969 at the rank of captain.
A few years after his time in the military, he applied to and was accepted to the Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work in 1971. Using the benefits of the G.I. Bill, he was able to pay for his Master’s Degree in Social Work, which he obtained in 1975. Following his time in graduate school, he went on to work as an assistant superintendent of the Union County Treatment Center, in Plainfield, New Jersey, from 1975-1978.
Continuing his career in social work, he briefly worked as the Director of Community Services for Regional Youth and Family Services, from 1978-1980, before working as a YMCA Executive from 1980-1997. Eventually, he decided to leave this position and continued his career in the position of professional fundraiser from 1997-2003. Subsequently, he decided to work his next and final job as an Executive Director for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Association until his retirement in 2009.
Fell has participated in numerous volunteer activities, such as the Rotary Club and YMCA, and has also participated in the anti-Vietnam War movement, as well as in movements advocating for those with disabilities.