Lavender Graduation honors LGBTQIA+ graduates

K. Rambo

For 21 years, Iowa State has held a graduation ceremony to honor graduating members of the Iowa State LGBTQIA+ community.

The Lavender Graduation took place on Thursday in the East State Gym, where 34 graduates walked across the stage to applause from friends, family, classmates, faculty and staff.

Lavender and rainbow were ever-present during the ceremony, both on the walls and the stage. Each graduate was presented with a lavender-colored stole accented with rainbow bars on each end.

Brad Freihoefer, director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success at Iowa State, gave an opening address as attendees settled in with hors d’oeuvres. Each table was covered with a lavender table cloth.

Martino Harmon, senior vice president for students affairs and Vernon Hurte, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, shook graduates’ hands as they crossed the stage.

Harmon was in charge of awarding each graduate their lavender stole, and Hurte awarded each graduate with a lavender rose.

Clare Lemke, assistant director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, gave the graduates a gift bag before receiving a gift from the representative of PFLAG, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Graduates received certificates from representatives from their respective colleges.

Freihoefer and took turns reading out the names of the graduates. Freihoefer also read a brief statement from each graduate about their most memorable moment at Iowa State.

Cody Smith, outgoing student government vice president, participated in the ceremony as a graduate.

“I didn’t think I would ever end up coming to a ceremony like this, something so public and visible,” Smith said. “Just having the platform that I had over the last year, I was really able to find out a lot more about myself, how I operated, and my identity, those sorts of things.”

Smith credited his campaign last year in helping him become more publicly out as a gay man.

“I got to thinking about whether or not I wanted to run openly during our campaign and that kind of led to everything else,” Smith said. “I really thought a lot about that and I thought to myself ‘I would have liked to have seen student leaders on our campus be more visible, be more open.’”

Smith stressed his belief that representation by LGBTQIA+ leaders on campus is important. Smith was among the graduates to speak to the crowd and introduce his “Cyclone Champion,” mentors that gave support to LGBTQIA+ graduates throughout their academic careers.

Freihoefer, who has been with The Center since 2008, received a raucous applause from the crowd for their work as an advocate on campus.

“For me, what’s exciting about it is we watch student through the journey and help them and support them to get to graduation,” Freihoefer said.

Freihoefer was immediately swarmed by students and loved ones after the ceremonies ended.

“I’m very humbled and honestly, it’s an honor,” Freihoefer said. “I remember I had help in my undergraduate career from the director of an LGBT center and I know how much of a difference it made in my life — it changed everything for me.”