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 served as 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. 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 QuASA) 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 this 1995 milestone.
In 2004, the Lavender Graduation revamped its image. It became known as the Lavender Commencement Celebration (LCC) and Scholarship Reception. The USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association co-sponsored the celebration with QuASA 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 celebrate with 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. LGBT 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. (’86), 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
- 2013 Keynote: Angela Ross, Student Speaker, Sociology and Economics Majors
- 2014 Keynote: Janet Mock, Writer and Transgender Advocate
- 2015 Keynote: D’Lo, Performing Artist and Comedian
- 2016 Keynote: Robert Garcia (’05), Mayor of Long Beach
- 2017 Keynote: Ricardo Lara, California State Senator
- 2018 Keynote: Vivian Romero, Montebello Councilmember
- 2019 Keynote: Bamby Salcedo, Transgender Advocate
- 2020 – No ceremony held due to COVID-19
- 2020/2021 Keynote: Kerri Cecil (’16), Film and Television Writer/Director/Producer
USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association
The USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association (USC Lambda) has been co-sponsoring Lavender Celebration since 2004. USC Lambda is USC’s official alumni organization for LGBT and Ally Trojans and has been a part of the USC community since 1992. In 1994 USC Lambda started awarding scholarships to students who were making a difference in the LGBT community and, to date, USC Lambda has awarded more than $400,000 to over 100 LGBT and Ally students.
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.