2016 Lavender Graduation Touches on Themes of Communication, Justice, and Authenticity

The Spectrum Center's 21st Lavender Graduation Ceremony took place on Thursday, April 28 at the Michigan Union. Over 150 guests came together to honor the accomplishments of this year's graduates, with dynamic and influential speakers, laughter, music, and cake. Students, family, friends, alumni, staff, and faculty applauded and recognized the tremendous strength and passion displayed by U-M's LGBTQ+ graduates. Vice President of Student Life Dr. E. Royster Harper spoke to the crowd about the power of participating in Lavender Graduation, noting the strength and joy inherent in the celebration.


The program was honored to be joined by alumnus John D. Evans who delivered an inspiring keynote address that shared his journey and wisdom of living the “Michigan Difference.” He currently serves as the Chairman and CEO of Evans Telecommunications Company, and is well-known as a co-founder and past Chairman of C-SPAN. Mr. Evans was recognized by The Spectrum Center with one of two annual Honorary Lavender Degrees. He was introduced by alumnus Chris Armstrong, who spoke of Mr. Evans' tireless commitment and efforts to change the world through focusing on social justice, AIDS vaccine research, environmental protection, technological innovation, education and the arts. The Spectrum Center would like to express deep gratitude to Mr. Evans for consistently connecting his wisdom, experience, and expertise back to his University of Michigan experience, and for his continual support of a robust and vibrant campus.


Also recognized during the ceremony was the essential and impactful work of Elizabeth González the second Honorary Lavender Degree recipient. Liz González currently serves as the Assistant Director of Clinical Services in Counseling and Psychological Services and acts that program's official liaison to the Spectrum Center. Through her role, Liz has created healing spaces for students within and outside of CAPS that honor all of who they are.


Another honor was to hear from student speaker Amber Williams, who delivered a powerful address reflecting on her eleven years at the University as a student, staff member, mentor, leader, and community organizer. Williams spoke to the importance of engaging in intersectional work that breaks down structures which continue to perpetuate marginalization. Having completed her undergraduate degree at U-M, Amber is currently finishing a dual master’s degree in Social Work and Higher and Postsecondary Education. Amber’s investment in creating spaces that support, celebrate, and honor individual and community experiences have changed and shifted the landscape of our campus.


Also during the program, flautist Brice Smith shared an incredibly moving piece he wrote called "Lipstick for Flute." Smith describes the piece as a tour de force of rhythms intertwined with poetic line excerpts and electronics. Brice is the recipient of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance's Willis Patterson Diversity Award. He studied with U-M Professor Amy Porter and completed Master of Music degrees in flute performance and chamber music. Brice’s "Lipstick for Flute" provided a rhythmic movement of emotions that brought the room together as one, reflecting on the mixed emotions that graduations can bring. The Spectrum Center is grateful for Smith's contribution to the event.

The 21st Lavender Graduation concluded with celebrating each graduates accomplishments and reflections on their their time at U-M and on their futures. It is with tremendous pride that The Spectrum Center concludes another year and celebrates the personal and professional accomplishments of the U-M student community. They say "You first knew of The Spectrum Center as a student, but now you are an alumnus and our colleague. It would be our honor to continue to stay in touch with you. Also remember that wherever you go, Go Blue!"