Updated as of 4:11 p.m. on May 16 to include video of the ceremony.

Elon University celebrated its 12th annual Lavender Graduation, hosted by the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, on May 10 in Alumni Gym with 70 students participating in their ceremony. 

Lavender Graduation honors LGBTQIA undergraduates, graduates and professional students at Elon with a certificate, a graduation stole, a rainbow tassel and a lavender graduation cap that can be worn at Commencement.

During the ceremony, there is a distribution of awards including, “Outstanding Graduate,” “Employee of the Year,” “Event/Initiative of the Year,” “Research Project/Scholar of the Year” and the inaugural award “Friend of the GLC,” which honors someone who has helped out with Lavender Graduation. According to the Director of the GLC Luis Garay, these awards are distributed to recognize the accomplishments of the LGBTQIA communities at Elon.

Seniors Syd Danziger and Danny Gutierrez were given this year’s award for “Outstanding Graduate” from the GLC.

According to Danziger’s nominators, they have made an immeasurable impact on the LGBTQ+ substance recovery community at Elon and was also awarded “Student of the Year '' by the Association for Higher Education in 2023. 

“I am having major imposter syndrome right now,” Danziger told Elon News Network. “What I was awarded for is really a community effort — it’s a group of people who all stand by each other and support one another so major shout out to Phoenix Free.”

Nia Bedard | Elon News Network

Senior Syd Danziger wins the award for "Outstanding Graduate" and hugs Becca Bishopric Patterson, associate director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, in Alumni Gym on May 10.

Phoenix Free is Elon University’s collegiate recovery program. 

According to Gutierrez’ nominators, he has enhanced awareness for gender, race and ethnicity-based discrimination at Elon University, as well as his art-based activism. Gutierrez’ art often centers LGBTQIA experiences, drawing on his own identities, and is driven by his desire for marginalized people to have access to liberated spaces. 

Chair of the English Department Kevin Bourque won “Employee of the Year” from the GLC for his dedication, passion and awareness around gender, LGBTQIA identities and topics. 

“I feel magical,” Bourque told Elon News Network. “They’re incredible students and it’s an honor and a pleasure to teach them and have them bring their own experience into the classroom.”

Prior to the distribution of awards, Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley spoke about how Lavender Graduation has grown at Elon throughout the past 12 years.

Dooley said that the first Lavender Graduation in 2014 had 16 graduates and was held in the Oaks Commons Room, while this year’s ceremony was held in Alumni Gym with 70 participants. 

“We moved from the Oaks, to Lakeside and then McKinnon, and now we finally had to be here at Alumni Gym because none of those spaces could hold us.” Dooley said. “And so here we are.”

Danziger said they hope to see Lavender Graduation continue to grow in the future. 

“It was so cool to see how many people showed up this year,” Danziger told Elon News Network. “I hope that trend keeps rising because it’s a beautiful thing that I get to be surrounded by so many people who understand me without knowing me.”