Kenyon’s Lavender Graduation ceremony, an annual event honoring LGBTQ+ seniors, took place via Zoom on Thursday, April 29.
Rory Dreyfus ’23, Unity House co-manager, received the Outstanding Advocacy Award. He spoke to the importance of the ceremony at a small school like Kenyon.
“[The event] feels like a recognition of that community, as well as a recognition of individuals,” Dreyfus said. “When seniors are graduating, it has a big impact on us. It changes who’s in our spaces and who’s leading our events, and it’s a really bittersweet moment for everyone involved.”
The first Lavender Graduation occurred at the University of Michigan in 1995, and these events now occur annually at more than 200 colleges and universities around the country. Kenyon’s first Lavender Graduation took place in 2017.
President Sean Decatur gave brief opening remarks at the event, but left the meeting before the names of graduating seniors were read. He explained that he often gets “pulled in multiple directions,” so he could not attend the whole ceremony. Still, he acknowledged its importance to the Kenyon community.
“It’s always a great event and an opportunity to celebrate students. I appreciate the keynote remarks and the framing of the event,” Decatur said.
Dreyfus said that, whatever Decatur’s intentions, his sudden departure was hurtful for many students. “I was angry, but I’ve gotten to a place where I’m honestly just disappointed that President Decatur … wouldn’t take more time to think through his actions and how they line up with his words,” he said.
The event continued with a keynote address delivered by Visiting Instructor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science Gilda Rodriguez, who spoke about found family and the many ways it can manifest itself. Dreyfus praised Rodriguez’s address. “I think the found family message is obviously something a lot of people resonate with. The sort of multitude of ways that she laid out that [concept] playing out in people’s lives was really impactful,” he said.
In addition to Dreyfus’ award, Director of Campus Events Howard Grier and Bookstore Manager Heather Peterson presented several other LGBTQ+ service awards. Toby McCabe ’21 and Jonathan Hernandez ’21 shared the Kenyon PRIDE Senior Leader Award. The Rising Star Award, given to a first- or second-year student, was awarded to Ocean Wei ’24, while the Faculty/Staff Advocate Award was given to Timothy Bussey, Associate Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
This year’s event also included the inaugural presentation of the Outstanding Community Partner Award to Equitas Health. The organization was nominated for their work in providing LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare. Director of Gender-Affirming Care Mimi Rivard and Chief Medical Officer Chad Braun, a Kenyon alumnus, accepted the award on behalf of Equitas.