Origin of Lavender Graduation
In 1995, the first Lavender Graduation ceremony was coordinated at the University of Michigan by then LGBT Campus Resource Center director Ronni Sanlo. Dr. Sanlo realized that LGBT students needed to be recognized for “not only their achievements but for surviving their college years” (Sanlo, 2000). The graduation began as an effort for students to feel connected to their institution and celebrate their identity, which are similar reasons for ethnic groups hosting their own graduation ceremonies.
Dr. Sanlo is currently the Director at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) LGBT Resource Center. When Dr. Sanlo became director at UCLA, she immediately coordinated their first Lavender Graduation in spring 1998. Currently, fifty-nine of The Advocate Top 100 LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities sponsor a Lavender ceremony (Windmeyer, 2006).
USC’s Lavender Commencement
The University of Southern California coordinated their first Lavender Graduation on May 9, 1995. The then named Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Assembly (now named GLBTA) coordinated then called “Graduation and Honors Evening.” At the event, student leaders Muriel Lynn Jones and Jayzen E.I. Patria served as the Mistress and Master of Ceremony. At this ceremony, 17 graduates were honored. A LGBT-theme graduation ceremony has been an annual event at USC since 1995..
In 2004, the Lavender Graduation revamped its image. It became known as the Lavender Commencement Celebration (LCC) and Scholarship Reception. Lambda Alumni Association co-sponsored the celebration with GLBTA and LGBT Resource Center to recognize their scholarship recipients and their generous donors. This became an opportunity for students, staff, faculty and alumni to network and provide advice for the recent graduates.
- 2004 Keynote: Kirk Synder, Author of Lavender Road to Success
- 2005 Keynote: Laura Castaneda, Professor from Annenburg School of Communication
- 2006 Keynote: Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center
- 2007 Keynote: Anthony Rapp, Actor and Performing Artist
- 2008 Keynote: Jorge Valencia, Executive Director & CEO for the Point Fountain
- 2009 Keynote: Amy A. Ross, Ph.D., Founding Member of USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association
- 2010 Keynote: Eric C. Bauman, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party & Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party
- 2011 Keynote: Stephanie Miller, Radio Talk Show Host and Political Activist
- 2012 Keynote: Janet Mock, Writer and Transgender Advocate
Lambda Alumni Association
Lambda Alumni Association (LAA) has been co-sponsoring LCC since 2004. We wanted to encourage recent graduates to become members of LAA and assist with future fundraising efforts for scholarships. LAA has been offering scholarships to LGBT students since 1996. The scholarships honor students who have engaged in either research or involvement with LGBT issues. In 1996, LAA founder Don Gabard was awarded for his accomplishments by the general USC Alumni Association. LAA became an official alumni association with Alumni Relations in 2003.
Sanlo, R. (2000). Lavender Graduation: acknowledging the lives and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender college students. Journal of College Student Development, 41(6), pp. 643-646.
Windmeyer, S. L. (2006). The Advocate College Guide For LGBT Students. New York, NY: Alyson Books.