Lavender Graduation Ceremony celebrates Class of 2020 LGBTQIA alumni

The in-person ceremony, sponsored by the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, was held Saturday, Sept. 4, as part of the Commencement celebration for the Class of 2020.

Members of Elon University’s Class of 2020 gathered in McKinnon Hall Saturday morning to be honored for their achievements in a long-awaited Lavender Graduation ceremony.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual event sponsored by Elon’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center was held virtually in May 2020. In the early months of the pandemic, the university shifted to online classes and students left campus, with the main Commencement ceremony held online rather than in person.

This weekend marks the first return to campus for many of these alumni since they left in March 2020, with Saturday’s Lavender Graduation just one event leading up to the main Commencement ceremony Under the Oaks on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Alumni were joined by friends, family members, faculty and staff for Saturday’s celebration, which was emceed by Luis Garay, director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, with an address by President Connie Ledoux Book.

“You graduated into a world that was faced by challenge and change, into a world that needed you, your talents and your passion more than ever,” Book told the group.

She noted that learning continues long after receiving a diploma and moving into a next phase in life, with ample opportunities to build upon what you have already learned, and early lessons coming into clearer focus.

“I expect many of you have had those moments since you left campus in spring 2020, when things you were taught or learned during your Elon journey suddenly crystalized — ‘Ah, now I see why they asked me to study that!'” Book said. “In my experience, learning is a journey without an arrival point, meaning we truly are engaged in lifelong learning.”

President Book invited the alumni to visit the newly renovated Gender and LGBTQIA Center space that was part of a larger renovation of the second floor of Moseley Center.

Alumni also heard from Ryan James Monroe ’16, a member of the LGBTQIA Alumni Board, who offered congratulation and encouraged the alumni to take a moment to reflect on what they have accomplished. “You should be so proud of yourselves,” Monroe said. “I want you to take a breath, and look around you and see all the people who helped you get to this moment and think about all the people you helped get to this moment. We can’t do this alone.”

Each alumni in attendance was presented with a lavender graduation cap, a rainbow tassel and bestowed with a rainbow stole, with Garay reading a brief biography of each alumni.

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The awards ceremony that was part of the virtual Lavender Graduation held in May 2020 included recognition of students, faculty and staff for excellence. Receiving awards at that time were:

Graduates of the Year

  • Christopher Adamik
  • Tim Boles

Employees of the Year

  • Shannon Finney G’20, graduate apprentice in the Gender and LGBTQIA Center
  • Kiah Glenn, assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education

Event/Initiative of the Year

  • Elon Pride Festival, Mac Lengyel

Research Projects of the Year

  • “Rolling for Recognition” by Matt Reichenbach, Victoria Traxler, Cole Rummelsburg, Sadie Stuart, Andrew Vendelis and Alexa Baer