William and Mary to host its first Lavender graduation


The College of William and Mary will have its first Lavender Graduation to celebrate its graduating LGBTQ+ students on May 11.

Lavender Graduations are a pre-commencement ceremony started in 1995 at the University of Michigan. These events provide a space for LGBTQ+ students to be recognized for their accomplishments. Camilla Hill, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said colleges around the country hold Lavander Graduations every year. VCU has had them for the past six years.

Roxie J. Patton, associate director for the Center for Student Diversity at William and Mary, said when she started her job last March she asked whether the college had a Lavender Graduation. After she found out they did not, her second question was if it was feasible to host a ceremony.

Patton said the ceremony’s theme is “moving forward by looking back at the people that brought us here.” Because of this, Patton said alumni are encouraged to attend the event.

Also, in accordance with this theme, the Lavender Graduation’s speaker will be Jeff Trammell, the first openly gay Board of Visitors member and a William and Mary alumnus. Trammell said while the college has always treated everyone with respect, when he attended 45 years ago, people were not commonly “out,” and were not allowed to be who they truly were. Trammell thinks the Lavender Graduation is a good first step for the college.

“Occasionally, I speak on diversity and its importance in higher education,” Trammell said. “Diversity is reality … so focusing on diversity is nothing more nothing less than trying to bring into alignment what we do with the world as it actually exists.”

Even though Hill works at VCU, she was excited to help William and Mary as an alumna. Hill said her family’s love for the university runs deep. Hill’s two mothers worked for the college, one as a professor and the other as the school’s women’s volleyball coach.

Other than being the first in the college’s history, Patton said the ceremony is different than others because of the students’ involvement in planning. Patton said students even went as far as to chose the kind of stole given at the ceremony, which will have a rainbow and the graduation year on it.

“I can’t wait to see our senior’s faces,” Patton said.

Details on the event

The graduation will be from 2-4 p.m May 11 at the Campus Center in the Little Theater on 104 Jamestown Road. The ceremony will be followed by a reception.

The event is open to the public and past alumni are invited to attend. People are required to RSVP online at forms.wm.edu/36434.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at aheymann@dailypress.com, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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