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Lavender commencement ceremony slated to honor LGBT graduates


BLACKSBURG, Va., May 1, 2009 – The LGBT Caucus at Virginia Tech and the LGBTA student organization have collaborated to sponsor a special graduation ceremony to celebrate achievement at Virginia Tech.

A first in the history of the university, the Lavender Commencement Ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. on May 14 and recognize lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual students and their allies from all majors, both graduate and undergraduates, who earned their degrees this spring. The first LGBT scholarship will be presented by the LGBT Caucus as well as the caucus’ inaugural Ally of the Year Award. The celebration will be held in the Old Dominion Ballroom in Squires Student Center.

“We hope that this ceremony becomes a tradition at Virginia Tech, and that it becomes one more way in which to show appreciation for diversity at our university, and more specifically, for our LGBT community and our allies,” said Ken Belcher, co-chair of the caucus.

The students will be awarded a unique rainbow cord that can be worn with academic regalia.

The keynote speaker for this event will be Edd Sewell, associate professor emeritus in the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1972, Sewell was a founding member of the communication studies program and the Department of Communication. He led curriculum development in the areas of visual media, new communication technologies, and international communication, and initiated and developed the study abroad program for the department.

In addition, JoAnn Harvill, a faculty member in the Department of English, will read a poem to conclude the celebration.

“This is an opportunity to share hopes and dreams, applaud courage, and honor the successes of our LGBT students at a university-supported event,” said Jean Elliott, co-chair of the caucus. “We hope that this festivity will help students to feel connected to the university and celebrate their identity. I am also delighted that we are able to sponsor our first $500 scholarship.”

The first Lavender Graduation ceremony was coordinated in the United States at the University of Michigan in 1995 for LGBT students to be recognized for “not only their achievements but for surviving their college years.”

The Lavender Commencement Ceremony is for those students who identify with the LGBT community that will graduate in May with an undergraduate or graduate degree, their families, faculty, staff, and allies. Refreshments will be provided. Graduates are asked to have a mentor speak on their behalf.

Graduating participants should register at the LGBT Caucus website with your name, major, the person speaking in your honor, and the approximate number of guests attending.

Visit the Commencement website.