Franklin & Marshall College conducted its first Lavender Graduation April 28. LGBTQQIA+ identified seniors were recognized for their accomplishments and resiliency.
“F&M has been here 230 years, and I know that this tradition will be with us for the next 230,” said President Daniel R. Porterfield in his opening remarks.
Ronni Sanlo, director emeritus of the UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, is widely recognized for instituting the first Lavender Graduation ceremony at the University of Michigan in 1995. She had been denied access to attend her own children’s graduations due to her identity as a lesbian. Today, the ceremony occurs at more than 170 colleges and universities.
Lavender Graduation was brought to F&M’s campus by the LGBTQ Alumni Council, which is headed by Erica Gordon Lawrence ’05 and Brett Murphy ’05, and by Chelsea Reimann, director of the Alice Drum Women’s Center, and Anthony Lascoskie, coordinator of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. The event was supported by Roger Hooper ’62 and the Alumni Association Board.
Actor and singer Hakim Canter-McMillan ’02 gave a keynote address, congratulating the graduating seniors. Canter-McMillan studied theater at F&M and launched his career at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, not far from campus. He and his husband now live in New York City, where he has performed as Jesus in “Godspell,” as a soloist in “Rent,” and has guest starred in “Law and Order: SVU.”
The event also served as an opportunity to thank Lascoskie for his 22 years of service to the College and to the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. He departs from F&M at the end of this academic year. His work was commemorated by Ralph Taber P’16, associate dean of the College and director of the Klehr Center for Jewish Life, who acknowledged the changes Lascoskie has helped bring to F&M and the supportive environment he has helped to foster.
Taber quoted Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, saying, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
Gordon Lawrence welcomed the graduating seniors into F&M’s LGBTQ Alumni Council and invited them to stay connected, noting the educators, actors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, physicians, and many more who make up the Council’s ranks.
“Please know that there is a network of fellow Diplomats waiting with open arms to provide support, strength, and guidance,” Gordon Lawrence said.