Lavender Graduation Ceremony and Reception
Lavender Graduation is an LGBTQ+ graduation celebration that was founded at the University of Michigan by Ronni Sanlo in 1995. In the years since, Lavender Graduation has spread to a number of colleges and universities around the country. On May 17, Rensselaer hosted its second annual Lavender Graduation ceremony to honor several graduating LGBTQIA+ students (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and/or questioning). The event served as an opportunity to celebrate their achievements, and to recognize individual students, faculty, staff, and alumni for their contributions to the campus community.
“We were very proud to present the second annual Lavender Graduation this year at Rensselaer,” said Rebecca Rouse, assistant professor in the Arts Department and Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences program, who also serves as the co-chair of the LGBTQ Task Force. “The importance of continuing to establish Lavender Graduation as an enduring, yearly presence on our campus cannot be overstated. This ceremony and celebration demonstrates tangible, institutional support for our LGBTQ+ community, and makes a huge impact. We were thrilled to once again receive generous support from so many portfolios across campus to fund the event and make it possible. We look forward to continuing to develop Rensselaer Lavender Graduation as a cornerstone of our campus Commencement celebrations.”
A keynote covering the topics of LGBTQ people, race, diversity, and intersectionality was given by Gwen Wright, executive director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. A longtime local activist, Wright challenged both graduates and attendees to think back on the people who helped support and pave the way for the queer community in our country—specifically citing transgender women of color who stood up in the face of adversity during the Stonewall Riots of 1969—and, moving forward, to provide similar assistance to others who might be struggling with equity in our society.
During the ceremony, 12 graduating students were honored. The students received a rainbow tassel and bouquet of flowers in recognition of their participation in the event.
“Going to the Lavender Graduation was a wonderful experience,” said Jay Luppino ’18. “I wish 14-year-old me could have seen that I was sitting through that graduation, as it would have given me so much hope to see that LGBT people were being celebrated for their accomplishments.”
In addition, several Rensselaer students, staff, and alumni received awards during the program.
Ashley Ferro-Murray, curator of theater and dance at EMPAC, received the Faculty/Staff Award that is presented to a member of the Rensselaer faculty or staff who has shown strong interest and support for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
Dates + Tickets
THE LGBTQ TASK FORCE