Wittenberg University hosted its third annual LGBTQIA+ Tiger Pride Lavender Graduation celebration on Monday, April 24, at Founders Pub of the Benham-Pence Student Center. Lavender Graduation is a pre-Commencement celebration that honors the achievements of Wittenberg University’s LGBTQIA+ graduates.
Celebrating the outstanding and meaningful work that the University’s LGBTQIA+ community members and allies contribute to the Wittenberg campus and beyond, 20 seniors were recognized with 15 in attendance. The celebration was sponsored by the Office of Student Development, the McClain Center for Diversity, and the LGBTQIA+ Tiger PRIDE Task Force. Graduating seniors received graduation regalia to be worn on Commencement (if they so choose), which they may keep as a token of success.
“This year, you are not only graduating from an institution of higher learning, but you are also graduating as proud members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Casey Gill, vice president and dean of students, at the event. “You have shown immense courage and resilience in the face of adversity and discrimination, and you have proven that being true to yourself is not only possible but essential for living a fulfilling life. You have overcome countless obstacles and have fought for your rights and the rights of others, and for that, you should be immensely proud. Remember that your journey does not end here. As you move forward in life, continue to be unapologetically yourself and fight for a world that is inclusive and accepting of all.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign website, the Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally students, and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to colleges and universities. It was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian, who was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. The first Lavender Graduation began at the University of Michigan in 1995, with three graduates. Now more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide have sponsored Lavender Graduation ceremonies, and Wittenberg University is part of that growing list.
“Graduates, take these last few days as undergraduates to reflect,” said Jade Jones, director of student involvement. “Reflect on your favorite class and your favorite memory while at official or unofficial campus events. When thinking of these memories, think of the people that were around you. Who are they? Who are the people that brought light in times of darkness? If we come together as a community, we can become torches of light for our LGBTQIA+ community so that we can be accepted, heard, and seen. Graduates of 2023 you have the knowledge, the experience, and the tenacity to bring light to others. When in darkness, think of your Wittenberg experience and the people who helped you so that you can live out the motto of your alma mater, ‘Having Light, We Pass it On to Others.’”
Charlotte Hurst-Bluemlein, executive administrative assistant in Student Development, and Jones, then presented the cords to those in attendance.
“It is my honor to present to you the graduation cords, which symbolize the culmination of your hard work, perseverance, and dedication in achieving your academic goals,” she said. “Today, we recognize not only your academic achievements but also your courage, resilience, and strength in facing the challenges that come with being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. As you wear these cords with pride, may they serve as a reminder of your unique journey and the immense value you bring to our society. Congratulations, graduates!”
Miya Miller, Wittenberg class of 2024 from Grove City, Ohio, and president of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Alliance at Wittenberg, gave a reflection at the ceremony, and the David P. and Carol Matevia Endowed University Pastor Tracy Paschke-Johannes offered a welcome and invocation to start the celebration.