The 19th annual Lavender Graduation, held May 5 in Clark Atrium, celebrated how far Cornell’s LGBTQ+ community has come, both on the individual level and through the Cornell LGBT Resource Center.
“Tonight is a night to honor the experiences, courage and resilience of our students and the history of our alumni,” said Brian Patchcoski, associate dean of students and director of the resource center. “Tonight we celebrate our past – the challenges we might have encountered here; we celebrate our present in the year we just had; and we celebrate our future – the future that our amazing alumni will continue to contribute to Cornell.”
The event featured reflections from Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, and Kent Hubbell, dean of students; keynote remarks by the Reverend Carla E. Roland ’94; community awards given to individuals and departments for their support of the LGBTQ+ community; personal narratives of support; and music by the Chordials.
Patchcoski reflected on the 90 resource center-sponsored workshops that reached nearly 3,000 faculty, staff and students, and the assistance the center provided for the Cornell Ivy-Q conference that drew 480 to campus. He stressed that more work needs to be done to bring about acceptance and inclusion of transgender and other marginalized individuals.
Lombardi said he was an ally of and an advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals, noting the late President Elizabeth Garrett had been one of the community’s “greatest champions.” Acknowledging the difficulties members of the LGBTQ+ community have had, Lombardi said Cornell is better because of “your service, your activism, your advocacy and your perseverance. … I appreciate all you’ve done to move our community forward.”
Roland provided a vivid picture of how far the university has come on LGBTQ+ concerns by describing what it was like at Cornell when she was an undergraduate nearly 25 years ago. A series of homophobic campus incidents in the early 1990s led to her own coming out; to protests, rallies and proposals to the administration to make Cornell more inclusive; and to the addition of the “T” for transgender to the LGBT Resource Center name.
“Know that whoever you are, you are always going to have an impact,” Roland said. “You have contributed to what Cornell is today.”
Some of those contributions were recognized with awards:
- Peter Baker: Ally Award, which honors the contributions of friends and allies of the LGBTQ+ community;
- Maayan Kline: Coalition Building Award, for using her skills and understanding of justice-related issues to create broad-based coalitions and conversations within the LGBTQ+ community;
- Ernes Railey: Community Activism Award, for providing strong, enduring and consistent advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community;
- Jevan Hutson and Melody Soto:, Lambda Award, for extraordinary service to the LGBTQ+ community.
The College of Veterinary Medicine received the University Department Award for being the “most supportive of the LGBTQ+ community within the past academic year.”
Thirty-four individuals recognized “significant supporters” during their time at Cornell – friends, parents, siblings, professors, mentors and spouses.