Inaugural Lavender Celebration Honors UM’s LGBTQ Graduates

Purple was the principal pigment at the University of Miami’s first-ever Lavender Celebration, a special ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of LGBTQ and ally graduates.

More than 20 students – representing most of UM’s schools and colleges – received rainbow cords at the event, organized by UM’s LGBTQ Task Force and Implementation Committee.

The Lavender Celebration Class of 2015

Welcoming grads, and their families and friends, LGBTQ Task Force Member and Director of the Butler Center for Volunteer Service & Leadership Development Andrew Wiemer said, “Today, it is a great day to be a Miami Hurricane! You have had an amazing journey at UM, and I’m looking forward to your bright futures.”

Carlo B. Zepeda received his M.S. in Latin American Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences. He called the event “fantastic,” adding, “It is nice to be included and to see the University acknowledging its LGBTQ student community.”

A leader in the PRISM group for LGBTQ graduate students, Zepeda said he has seen positive changes in the climate for LGBTQ students during his two years at UM.

“It is a very welcoming and inclusive place,” Zepeda said. “At times, it was difficult to find a connection, but when I did it was immensely supportive.”

The Lavender Celebration was supported by the Toppel Career Center and the University of Miami Alumni Association (UMAA), with backing from the College of Arts & Sciences Program in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS).

WGS Director and Associate Professor of Political Science Louise Davidson-Schmich said, “This is a great affirmation that the University is LGBTQ friendly,” adding that the first cohort of students minoring in LGBTQ studies were part of the group. “I’m glad to see that program coming to fruition, and I am so proud of our graduates.”

Kate Lake, senior director of alumni engagement in the UMAA, said, “The Lavender Celebration has been a long time coming.”

She is working with the existing LGBTQ group to become an officially chartered affiliate group of the UM Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“Your UM journey does not end with graduation. You are just turning the page to the next chapter,” she said, “Stay involved, and share your time, talents and treasure.”

The first-ever Lavender Celebration took place at the University of Michigan in 1995, with just three attendees. Similar events are now held on more than 100 campuses nationwide.

The color lavender is important to LGBTQ history, a combination of the pink triangles that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps, and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQ civil rights movement combined these symbols of hatred to designate pride and community.

May 08, 2015