Doug died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Boulder, Colo., on May 29, 2023, leaving a career as an author, editor, filmmaker, and storyteller of human and natural history, wilderness, and wildlife. Even before freshman year, he had lived and gone to school in various countries because of his father’s work, entering Princeton from the American Community School in London, UK. He earned his A.B. degree magna cum laude in Germanic Languages and Literatures while also being a notably successful social chairman for Dial Lodge. Friends remember his gifted storytelling, sense of humor, and adventurous spirit, along with his sensitive and caring heart.

After saving up, in the fall of 1976 Doug, Paul Maeder ’75, and two others sailed a 32-foot sloop for eight months from Newport, R.I., through the Caribbean as far south as Grenada and back. The trip was just the beginning of Doug’s resumption of adventure and world travel. Upon his return,  he spent more than 14 years as a staff writer for National Geographic magazine, writing feature articles and working extensively in every stage of editing. An assignment taking him to Botswana captured his heart, and he later wrote, “I've considered the Okavango Delta, as well as Maun, its raucous frontier gateway town, and the surrounding Kalahari Desert my second home for more than 30 years.”

Doug earned a certificate in video production from Maine Media Workshops, and after going freelance in 1992, he wrote and co-produced two natural history features for National Geographic TV, Snakes: Africa’s Deadly Dozen and Elephant Orphans: A Family of Their Own. (Classmates’ children still remember Doug’s talk about snakes at our 15th Reunion.) He also maintained ties with family in coastal Mississippi, where he had spent boyhood summers. Among his books are On the Hurricane Coast, which recounts his travels in that region and Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina, and Katrina’s Wake. He also did field coverage in the North American Arctic and recently had researched articles about the Kalahari and the American West.

Doug’s parents and his sister Kay predeceased him, but he is survived by his remaining sister, Janet Havens, and his brother, James Stephen “Steve” Lee. We join them in mourning the loss of Doug, a memorable and talented classmate, and a loyal friend to many at Princeton and all over the world.

—The Class of 1975

Undergraduate Class of 1975