The University of Illinois at Springfield hosted its first Lavender Graduation ceremony for graduating LGBTQ students, their families, friends, and allies, on Sunday, May 4, in the Public Affairs Center restaurant on the UIS campus.
Lavender Graduation is a cultural celebration that recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning students and their allies and acknowledges their achievements and contributions. The event was organized by UIS' LGBTQ Resource Office Student Advisory Board and was sponsored by the LGBTQ Resource Office, Student Life, Division of Student Affairs. Beth Hoag, UIS assistant director of Student Life, noted, "We hope this is a start of a great tradition."
Graduating students recognized for their leadership and achievements were (pictured above) Rich Sullivan, Ben Owen, Jimmy Brower, Chad Eversgerd, Heidi Fisher, and Daniel McCarthy. Online student Lucy Silva is not pictured.
Three awards were also presented. The LGBTQ Faculty/Staff Advocate of the Year award was presented to Ryan Prosser, resident director of east campus apartments. Rich Sullivan was named Ally of the Year, and Jimmy Brower received the LGBTQ Student Leader Award.
Lynne Price, director of the UIS Campus Health Service, was the keynote speaker. "I am pleased and very honored to be the inaugural speaker for Lavender Graduation," said Price. "This graduating class is reminiscent of the energy and enthusiasm for social justice that was present at the formation of our university. Those graduates we honor today have brought LGBTQ issues to the forefront. From your commitment and dedication, a new and positive climate emerges for those who follow."
Price observed that some recent campus initiatives achieved through student efforts, most notably by the student organization Queer Straight Alliance, include creation of the Safe Zone Program, which in the past two years has trained more than 200 people to become allies for LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty; the opening of the LGBTQ Resource Office; campuswide observances of National Coming out Day, National Day of Silence, and Day of Dialogue; campus display of the national AIDS Quilt project; an LGBTQ presence at campus Preview Days and Orientation; hosting such events as the annual Alternative Prom and Wig Out!, a festival that showcased nationally known drag performers, allied musical groups, and community organizations; and the installation of gender neutral bathrooms on campus.
The lavender triangle as a symbol of LGBTQ pride grew from two separate symbols used in Nazi Germany: pink triangles marked gay men in concentration camps and black triangles identified lesbian political prisoners. During the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement, these symbols of hatred were combined to produce a symbol of pride and community.
Related links: Queer Straight Alliance, more info about Lavender Graduations