Kent State celebrates Lavender Graduation


Ken Ditlevson, the director of the LGBTQ Student Center, speaks during the Lavender Graduation ceremony in the Kent State Student Center Ballroom on Friday, April 8, 2016. Lavender graduation is held to honor LGBTQ and Ally students who are graduating in 2016.

Nick Garisto

Kent State LGBTQ-identifying graduates were celebrated Friday night during Lavender Graduation at the Kent Student Center Ballroom.

LGBTQ Student Center Director Ken Ditlevson, host for the night, emphasized how important it is to “show the community we celebrate our LGBTQ students.”

“It means showing support beyond a program or an event (and) showing people there (is) support for our students beyond just theory and thought,” Ditlevson said, on what the night meant to him.

He also said the event was “quite the milestone to achieve” as Lavender Graduation had more than 300 registered guests.

President Beverly Warren was originally intended to be the night’s keynote speaker, but due to her recent breast cancer diagnosis, she was unable to attend the event. She did however leave a note for the attendees stating how disappointed she was to not be able to be present. Vice-President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Alfreda Brown read the note in her absence. 

“Although I am not there physically, I am with you in spirit,” President Warren’s note read, “Lavender Graduation is an important tradition at Kent State…and tonight we come together to recognize the milestone of your academic achievement but most importantly we are here to celebrate the value and power of your contributions to a diverse Kent State community.”

President Warren offered her “most heartfelt congratulations” to all LGBTQ identifying people in attendance for being a part of what she called “a very special night.”     

Senior Associate Provost Melody Tankersley spoke in President Warren’s absence as the keynote speaker.

“The [LGBTQ] center is life changing and life affirming to countless students and others within the university and the community,” said Tankersley during her speech, “For some it might be the first safe and welcoming environment they have enjoyed that became home.”

“At Kent State we accept every person where they are and we believe in their power to become productive and creative leaders of tomorrow,” said Tankersley.

Tankersley closed out her speech by saying she hopes in the future that “no child, teenager, or adult will ever have to feel that they are anything other than their amazing self.”

Four awards were given to students and organizations that showed exemplary merit towards the LGBTQ community. 

The Rising Star Award was given to Jordin Manning, a freshman zoology major who made “tremendous effort for the LGBTQ community,” said Ditlevson during the presentation.

PRIDE! Kent’s President Brandon Stephens received the award for “Out and Proud Leader,” that according to Ditlevson is “given to a student who exemplified leadership within the LGBTQ community.”

The award for Outstanding Collaborative Ally was given to Hillel at Kent State, an organization that Ditlevson stated is “respective of diversity and inclusion” and has “created a better place for LGBTQ identifying people.”

The final recognition of the night was the Faculty/Staff award presented to the family of Cynthia Roller, who was a “champion of transgender research in the healthcare field and a “strong supporter for the LGBTQ community,” Ditlevson said.

The night ended by honoring each graduate one by one. Upcoming graduates were given time to introduce themselves and give thanks they wished to say to family, partners, or friends.

Nick Garisto is a women’s and gender Reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]