Elon University’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center celebrated its largest student participation in the Lavender Graduation ceremony’s 11-year history with 81 participants on Friday. 

Each participant at Lavender Graduation — which celebrates graduating seniors who identify within the LGBTQIA communities — received a rainbow stole, lavender graduation cap, rainbow tassel and certificate. According to the GLC’s website, the ceremony is held at over 100 campuses across the country and is funded fully by donations to the GLC. 

Kennedy Boston and Billie Waller were named “Outstanding Graduates” in the class of 2023. This award represents those who have shown dedication, passion and awareness within the  LGBTQIA  communities. 

Erin Hroncich | Elon News Network
Billie Waller receives an "Outstanding Graduate" award at the Lavender Graduation ceremony held May 5, 2023 at McKinnon Hall. This award represents those who have shown dedication, passion, and awareness within the LGBTQIA communities

Boston reflected on the support she received at Elon upon accepting the award. 

“The community I have found at Elon has always supported and uplifted me in all of my endeavors and I am so grateful to all of them for everything they’ve done to help me get to this point,” Boston told Elon News Network. 

After the awards were given to nominated students and faculty, each participating student was invited to walk to the front as their name was announced to receive their rainbow stole. Students had the option of choosing a mentor or important figure in their life to present the stole to them. 

While the ceremony was primarily focused on the celebration of the students, Director of the GLC Luis Garay took time to address recent bills filed in the North Carolina Senate regarding drag bans in K-12 schools. 

“These are dangerous times we are living in as a result of white supremacists, imperialists, and fascist ideologies,” Garay said. “These ideologies are currently evident before us as these various bills work their way through communities, chambers, and desks of elected officials.” 

Sarah Majors ’16, who serves on the LGBTQIA Alumni Network, encouraged students to stay involved with LGBTQIA movements, starting with joining the alumni network after graduation. 

“Elon is a magical place. But it’s a place where things can always get better too,” Majors said. “We want to celebrate how magical Elon is and how magical the graduates are, and we want to invite you to the board in making it better.” 

University President Connie Book spoke to students about their future after graduation and the impact they’ve made on Elon. 

“It’s reciprocal, meaning we learn and grow at Elon as you learn and grow as a student while you’re here,” Book said. “You leave a thumbprint, and we’re different after you graduate.” 

2023 Lavender Graduation Awards

  • Outstanding Graduate:
    • Billie Waller
    • Kennedy Boston
  • Employee of the Year
    • Michael Abernathy
  • Event/Initiative of the Year
  • Research Project/Scholar of the Year
    • Jack Morrill: “Queer Theory and Arts Administration Practices: How might a queer values system change the way theatrical organizations operate?”