VCU hosts Lavender Graduation

Virginia Commonwealth University recognized 45 graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex seniors during the fourth VCU Lavender Graduation on April 24 at the Harris Hall Auditorium.

Lavender Graduation is a special graduation ceremony that honors the achievements of graduating gender and sexual minority students on campus.

The keynote speakers were Carol Schall, Ph.D., assistant professor in the VCU School of Education, and Mary Townley, supervisor of transitional programming at the Health Diagnostic Laboratory, who served as plaintiffs in “Bostic v. Schaefer,” the Virginia marriage equality case.

Schall and Townley were married in in California in 2008 and renewed their vows in Richmond on Oct. 6, 2014, after the Supreme Court let stand the Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling that found Virginia’s ban of gay and lesbian marriages was unconstitutional.  

Schall and Townley spoke of overcoming adversity and challenged the graduates to never accept the status quo.

“Class of 2015, what will be your great win? What contributions will you bring?” Townley said. “Tell your story. And when you tell your story, be fierce!”

More than 100 friends, family members, alumni and allies turned out for the celebration at the Harris Hall auditorium to show their support for the graduates.

Participants received a rainbow cord to wear with their academic regalia at the university’s official commencement activities on May 9. Graduates were also provided with memberships to Rainbow Rams, a new VCU LGBT and Allies Alumni Chapter, thanks to 1981 alumnus Michael Fuller.  

Lavender graduation ceremonies began in 1995 on the campus of the University of Michigan, and have since expanded to universities around the country. The color lavender is significant to LGBTQIAA history and represents a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQIAA civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make a color of pride and community.

VCU is one of 93 U.S. colleges and universities to hold lavender graduations and has recognized more than 200 graduates since the first ceremony was held in 2012.

The Lavender Graduation was sponsored by VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies; VCU Office of the Provost; VCU Alumni; VCU Division of Inclusive Excellence; Equality VCU; QueerAction; MCV Health Collective; Office of Multicultural Student Affairs; Student Equality; Division of Student Affairs; and University Student Commons and Activities.

 

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Graduation speakers Carol Schall (left) and Mary Townley (right) celebrate with graduate Shauna Spencer. Photos provided by Lauren M. Henry, marketing and special events coordinator for the University Student Commons and Activities.
Graduation speakers Carol Schall (left) and Mary Townley (right) celebrate with graduate Shauna Spencer. Photos provided by Lauren M. Henry, marketing and special events coordinator for the University Student Commons and Activities.
George Kelly, assistant director of finance and personnel for University Student Commons and Activities, celebrates with Michael Fuller, who paid for memberships for the graduates to Rainbow Rams, a new VCU LGBT and Allies Alumni Chapter. Fuller, president of Fuller Management Group LLC, is a 1981 VCU alumnus.
George Kelly, assistant director of finance and personnel for University Student Commons and Activities, celebrates with Michael Fuller, who paid for memberships for the graduates to Rainbow Rams, a new VCU LGBT and Allies Alumni Chapter. Fuller, president of Fuller Management Group LLC, is a 1981 VCU alumnus.