Lavender Graduation ceremony to honor LGBT graduates, allies

Courtesy Photo /
A lavender graduation held at Princeton University. Grand Valley will be holding a lavender graduation on April 19th in Kirkhof

Courtesy Photo / A lavender graduation held at Princeton University. Grand Valley will be holding a lavender graduation on April 19th in Kirkhof

Kendal Pektas

Graduation is just around the corner for Grand Valley State University’s class of 2011, but before students walk across the stage in the Van Andel Arena, the LGBT Resource Center will host its fifth-annual Lavender Graduation at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 2215 of Kirkhof Center.

Lavender Graduation is an opportunity for the GVSU community to acknowledge and honor the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students for their achievements and contributions to not only the community but also to the university.

The color lavender is meaningful to LGBT history and culture as it signifies the colors of triangles that the gay community had to wear as prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. The LGBT civil rights movement reclaimed these symbols of hatred to create a color of pride.

The Lavender Graduation tradition began in 1995 at the University of Michigan to honor and appreciate the accomplishments of LGBT graduates. Since then, campuses across the nation began to host their own Lavender Graduations. While the first Lavender Graduation at GVSU had only a handful of students, this year’s ceremony will be the largest one yet.

“It’s a wonderful event,” said Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center. “It’s very festive and celebratory. President Haas will be delivering a greeting. Not only will we acknowledge our graduates and their accomplishments, but we will also honor our recipients of LGBT scholarships.”

Scholarships will include the West Shore Aware Scholarship and the LGBT Scholarship.

Wendy Wenner, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, will receive the Milton Ford Leadership Award. This year for the very first time, the LGBT Faculty and Staff association will be presenting the PRISM Award.

The PRISM Award is only available to GVSU staff.

“The award is specifically for faculty, staff or administrators who have contributed their time, energy and resources to create improvements for the LGBT communities,” said Shawn Bible, vice president of the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association. “It is not meant to be for students.”

About 5 percent of the GVSU community identifies itself as LGBT. However, Lavender Graduation is not just for the gay community but for its allies as well. Many members of the Greek Allies and Advocates will also participate in the event.

“It is really important to continue to educate the greater campus that we live in a society where an entire group of people do not have equality,” Seguin Beighley said. “LGBT students are navigating through a society that doesn’t accept them.”

The event is sponsored by the LGBT Resource Center, the Women’s Center, the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association, Allies & Advocates, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the University Bookstore. Graduating students will receive rainbow tassels along with gift bags from the bookstore.

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