May 3, 2022
On Campus

Lavender Graduation Celebration

LGBTQIA+ Students’ Achievements Honored

Wittenberg University hosted its second annual LGBTQAI+ Tiger Pride Lavender Graduation celebration in-person on Saturday, April 30, at the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning. Lavender Graduation is a pre-Commencement celebration that honors the achievements of Wittenberg University’s LGBTQAI+ graduates.

Celebrating the outstanding and meaningful work that the University’s LGBTQAI+ community members and allies contribute to the Wittenberg campus and beyond, eight seniors were recognized, and four awards were presented to students. One faculty/staff member was presented an award during the ceremony that took place at 4 p.m. The celebration was sponsored by The McClain Center for Diversity and the LGBTQAI+ Tiger PRIDE Task Force. Graduating seniors will receive graduation regalia to be worn on Commencement day (if they so choose) and may keep as a token of success. 

“Our students are devoted to change and success, and the Lavender Graduation is designed to help us celebrate our students and their accomplishments despite their challenges. The journey to graduation always seems like the hardest thing, but when you do achieve it, it is the greatest feeling. And we want the students to be proud of what they’ve done and proud of who they are! As the community gathers to celebrate, we hope to continue this celebration each year to ensure every student is celebrated for all they’ve done,” said Debbie Beausejour, associate director of the McClain Center for Diversity. 

The Tiger Up, Out, and About Advocacy and Community Engagement Award seeks to recognize two graduating students who have worked to create equitable and inclusive spaces for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. These students actively participate in events and/or movements that contribute to the progression of the community as a whole, and they promote and educate others on the issues and triumphs of the LGBTQIA+ community. This year’s award was presented to Taylor Benford of South Euclid, Ohio, and Oliver Gietzen of Wayne, Michigan. 

The Get Witt It Rising Star Award recognizes two non-graduating students who have expanded their engagement with the LGBTQIA+ community and demonstrate a desire to grow and learn more. The recipients are actively developing and implementing their leadership skills to inspire positive change. Most importantly, this award serves to recognize the potential of the recipients as future leaders. The recipients are Sydney Lamb, class of 2023 from Medway, Ohio, and Danny Bean, class of 2024 from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Faculty/Staff Pride and Advocacy Award is presented to one current faculty or staff member who has demonstrated exceptional leadership during the past year, resulting in a positive impact on Wittenberg and the greater LGBTQAI+ community. This award was presented to Brooke Wagner, associate professor of sociology and director of criminology program.

This year’s graduates include Natalie McLean of Enon, Ohio; Christine Davis of Fairfax, Virginia; Erika Jackson of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Meghan Engle of West Chester, Ohio; Oliver Gietzen of Wayne, Michigan; Taylor Benford of South Euclid, Ohio; Molly Moran of Eastlake, Ohio; Tatyana Mays of Dayton, Ohio; Taiylour Kirkwood of Schererville, Indiana; Elise Freeland of Marysville, Ohio; Jackson Brown of North Royalton, Ohio; Abbey Roberts of Westlake, Ohio; Rachel Boyette of Lakewood, Ohio; Caitlyn Ashley of Delaware, Ohio; Sadie Kurtzman of Crestline, Ohio; Sofia Hess of Hudson, Ohio; Jennifer Barron-Estrada of Farmington, Michigan; Anya Bennett of Thompson, Ohio; Sophie Ouellette-Wade of Columbus, Ohio; and Samantha Wyatt of Westerville, Ohio. 

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.

The LGBTQAI+ Task Force is looking for students, faculty, and staff to serve as an invested and dedicated body of queer community members and/or allies who will meet once a month as a branch of the McLain Center for Diversity to discuss and execute programs, trainings, resources, advocacy, etc. If you are interested, please email Debbie Beausejour at and/or Corrine Carthell at

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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