The Time of the Season

In less than a decade, Lavender Graduation has blossomed into a spring Tech tradition

They’re going to need a bigger space.

On the evening of April 11, Wardlaw’s Gordy Room was filled to capacity as the Georgia Tech community celebrated its eighth annual Lavender Graduation and fifth annual Lavender Awards. The event has been growing steadily over the years, and organizers and attendees couldn’t be happier about that.

“This is, fundamentally, a loving gathering for our community of queer students, queer faculty and staff, and their allies,” said Genny Kennedy, international affairs major and president of Georgia Tech Pride Alliance. “We welcome all of our LGBTQIA people on campus who want to attend.”

The end of the academic year brings many opportunities to celebrate, and the campus is awash in events and activities. Commencement preparation, awards ceremonies, graduating seniors bedecked in caps and gowns snapping photos at their favorite, most Instagrammable spots — it’s the time of the season for recognizing Tech students’ achievements.

Add Lavender Graduation to that list, because this might be the most rollicking, and one of the most moving, of springtime celebrations. There have been more than 100 Lavender Graduates at Tech, and on this night, 26 people would be joining their ranks.

The boisterous, multigenerational, multicultural crowd was made up not only of graduates and supporters, but also faculty and staff from across the Institute as well as alumni, inlcuding 2018 graduate and Rhodes Scholar Calvin Runnels.

Amy Azad, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major and Lavender Graduate who has worked for three years at the Women’s Resource Center, identifies as an ally. “It’s nice to be around people who are part of your community,” she said, “and to celebrate the people who are graduating or who have worked within and on behalf of the community during the year.”

For outgoing LGBTQIA Resource Center Director Aby Parsons, it may have been bittersweet to host her final Lavender Graduation at Tech, but she rightfully counted the event’s continued growth as one of the successes of her five-year tenure here. “Our community is resilient, compassionate, brave, surviving, and thriving,” she said.

Steven P. Girardot, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and a Georgia Tech alumnus, was the featured speaker. He described what it was like to be a gay undergraduate at Tech more than two decades ago, noting that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance student group had about five members when he summoned the courage to attend a meeting — “I was scared to death” — and join.

Girardot told the graduates, “Whatever personal journey you took to make it to this point — and as with my story, it’s different for everybody — don’t underestimate the power of that journey and the strength that you can draw from it. Even though there have been tough moments, the success you’ve had at Georgia Tech has prepared you for just about any challenge you’re going to face.”

Before Vice President for Institute Diversity Archie Ervin began calling graduates’ names and detailing their academic accomplishments and the highlights of their time at Tech, Girardot paused to thank them for helping to make the Institute more inclusive. “Not just for the people here tonight, but for the people like me who would have wondered and worried about walking into this event,” he said. “You’re out there making Georgia Tech a better place. Thank you.”

From mechanical engineering to music technology, from physics to public policy, and from business administration to biomedical engineering, 26 beaming young people shared the moment. It was something to call their own, even as they looked forward to early May, when they would join a few thousand of their classmates, walk across the stage at McCamish Pavilion to receive their diplomas, and head out into the world.

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Stacy Braukman

Institute Communications

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