Lock Haven University recently held Lavender Graduation on Dec. 6 in the Parsons Union Building. A small group of students, administrators, faculty, and staff got together to celebrate LGBTQ students and their academic successes.
“LHU’s President’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs has been celebrating the academic achievements and successes of our LGBTQ students at Lavender Graduation for several years now,” said Bre Reynolds, chair of the LGBTQ Commission at LHU.
The first Lavender Graduation was held in 1995 at the University of Michigan with three graduates. Ronnie Salvo, a lesbian mother, began the tradition after being denied the right to attend her children’s graduation ceremonies due to her sexual orientation.
“Salvo went on to organize a complementary graduation event for LGBTQ students, parents and families disenfranchised because of their sexual orientation. Since then, universities across the nation have held Lavender Graduation to advocate for the acceptance and celebration of our LGBTQ students,” Reynolds said.
Lavender Graduation at LHU is open to anyone regardless of their sexual orientation and is observed for both the fall and spring graduates.
This month’s ceremony began at 6:30 p.m. with a welcome from the commission, followed by a keynote speech by Sue Marshall, head counselor and assistant girls’ cross country coach at State College Area High School. Marshall also sits on the board of the Centre County LGBTQA Support Network, and is the secretary of the State College Borough LGBTQ Advisory Committee.
“I want to speak to you about four things today as you get ready to graduate and enter the next stage of your lives and careers,” Marshall told the guests. “Be patient, be safe, be kind, and be grateful.”
Marshall’s speech emphasized the importance of nurturing the identity, pride and potential of LGBTQ students to be fully who they are.
This theme was stressed again by Alisha Wein, president of LHU’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Wein spoke about the pride, power and permanence of a college degree. “So, graduates, you will come out soon to your parents, ‘Mom, Dad, I am a Bald Eagle!’ ” Wein joked.
Dr. Lisette Schillig, associate professor of English, and member of the Lavender Graduation committee, presented graduating senior Amiyra Brodie with a certificate, rainbow tassel, and LHU gifts as a souvenir. Brodie, of Chester, is a social work major at LHU.
“You all here, you were my family for the last four years,” Brodie said. “I learned so much from you all; I love my major and I have a direction for my future.”
Brodie has interned at the Clinton County Women’s Center, and is a member of the LHU chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Black Student Union, and Gender Sexuality Alliance. Brodie has worked as an LHU admissions ambassador and for the residence halls.
Lavender Graduation is sponsored by the President’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the Stackpole Hall Diversity Grant, LHU Safe Zone, and student clubs GSA and Gender Equality Liberation (GEL). The Lavender Graduation program was organized by Dr. Jeyaprakash Chelladurai, assistant professor of computer science; Dr. Gayatri Devi, associate professor of English; Dr. Lisette Schillig, associate professor of English; and Dr. Julie Story, assistant professor, academic development and counseling.
For inquiries or interest, contact Devi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Lock Haven University is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
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