Lavender Graduation recognizes students for being authentically themselves

Elizabeth Winter
April 04, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Each year, the LGBTQA Student Resource Center recognizes students who contribute to the LGBTQ+ community and their achievements at the annual Lavender Graduation. This year's ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. April 12, in Heritage Hall, located in the HUB-Robeson Center. Family and friends of graduates are encouraged to attend. 

The Lavender Graduation ceremony recognizes scholarship awardees and campus award recipients. It is also a time to recognize graduates and thank those who support the community. Graduates receive a rainbow tassel, stole and graduation certificate as well.

Denver Greenawalt graduated from Penn State in May of 2018 with a degree in veterinary biomedical science and a minor in poultry and avian science and attended the Lavender Graduation his senior year.

“I wanted to be involved with Lav Grad because it is a unique opportunity to be recognized for being unique in my own way,” Greenawalt said, adding that it is a ceremony filled with acceptance and love.

When Greenawalt first came out, he explained how the center took him in with loving arms and helped him to be confident in who he was. At the time Greenawalt was also involved in starting the organization Students for Cultivating Change, a collegiate ambassador program for the national Cultivating Change Foundation which focuses on valuing and elevating LGBTQ+ agriculturists.

What Greenawalt loved most about the ceremony was being able to bring someone special on stage and recognize and thank them for their support during his time at Penn State.

For Greenawalt, that was his boyfriend whom he met halfway through his time at Penn State. Greenwalt stated that his boyfriend was and still is his rock. Greenawalt’s boyfriend constantly provided support to help him through difficult times and always made sure Greenwalt put his academics first.

Greenawalt encourages students to attend Lavender Graduation because the ceremony provides a sense of family.

“Losing family and friends when one comes out seems to be a normal occurrence and being able to surround yourself with your own 'family' really is special,” Greenawalt said.

The ceremony allows students to be recognized in a unique way which may not be able to be found anywhere else on campus Greenawalt said.

The first Lavender Graduation took place at the University of Michigan in 1995, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The ceremony was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo a Jewish lesbian, who was denied from attending her children’s graduation due to her sexual orientation. From this, she recognized the hurt her students were going through and held the first ceremony.

LGBTQA Student Resource center director Brian Patchcoski, said that the color lavender is very important to LGBTQ history. Lavender is a combination of the pink triangle, which gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps, and the black triangle, which lesbians wore as political prisoners during the Nazi regime in Germany.

In turn, the LGBTQ civil rights movement took these symbols to make the colors and symbols of the greater LGBTQ community and movement.

“Lavender Graduation recognizes this history, but also pushes us to think about the radical transformation that our graduating students have had on Penn State and will have as global citizens and alumni,” Patchcoski said.

The ceremony is a recognition of all the hard work put in the past four years in a way that provides confidence in who you really are Greenawalt said. That this ceremony provides a foundation for future endeavors after leaving Penn State.

“Truly being yourself is such an inspiring and uplifting feeling and attending Lav Grad really does show you that the real you is amazing and you should never hide who you really are, just because someone else may not share the same values,” Greenawalt said.

Students can register for Lavender Graduation through the online form. The ceremony is organized by the LGBTQA Student Resource Center, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs. All family and friends are welcome and encouraged to attend the ceremony and show support for those graduating.

Last Updated April 04, 2019