Banquet, keynote speaker and awards ceremony highlight accomplishments, community
Cleveland State University held its annual Lavender Graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 12 in the Mather Mansion Ballroom, celebrating the achievements of CSU’s LGBTQ+ graduates.
Lavender Graduation is a special ceremony that was first initiated in 1995 by Ronni Sanlo, Ed.D., at the University of Michigan, after she was denied the opportunity to see her biological children graduate due to sexual orientation. While Dr. Sanlo’s first ceremony had only three graduates, it has since grown into a national movement that takes place at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country.
CSU’s annual event mirrors those conducted on those campuses—honoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally students—to acknowledge their achievements and contributions.
Graduating attendees at the Thursday evening event were treated to a banquet, a keynote address from speaker/CSU alumnus Caleb Sargent MSW, LSW, rainbow cords to wear with their regalia on graduation day, and a brief awards ceremony to conclude.
In welcoming remarks, LGBTQ+ Student Services coordinator Kara Tellaisha asked for a specific round of applause for all the family, friends and loved ones in attendance.
“If any group of people understands how important a chosen family is, it’s us,” Tellaisha remarked.
“So, thank you parents, siblings, family, friends, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni… I am humbled and grateful to be in this space with you tonight.”
Phillip "Flapp" Cockrell, Ph.D., vice president for Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at CSU echoed those sentiments, remarking that the room was full of "resiliency and determination" and that accomplishing what the graduates have, particulary during the last couple of pandemic years, was nothing short of extraordinary.
"You are all leaders and you lead by example," Dr. Cockrell said.
A clinical social worker and therapist, Sargent graduated from the master’s program at CSU last year and now devotes their time to helping those burdened with depression, anxiety and difficult situations connect to their unique stories and strengths in order to heal, grow and thrive.
Sargent said that recognizing one’s gifts and building holistic contentment in all parts of life comes from environments which are conducive to community, connection and therapeutic. They see a Venn diagram that informs their career trajectory and how it draws on their CSU experience.
“You are all uniquely powerful,” said Sargent. “Don’t ever take that for granted.”
The significance of “Lavender” is particularly important to LGBTQ+ history, as it is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps, and the black triangle designating lesbians as “political prisoners” in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQ+ rights movement transformed these symbols of hatred into those of pride and community.
Learn more about how CSU's LGBTQ+ Student Services Center is creating broader societal visibility, advocacy and support on campus, as well as how to actively engage with the center as students, faculty, staff or alumni. Congratulations to all of CSU's Lavender Graduates!