A world-class institute of changemakers in the deaf and signing community.
Since 1864, we have been investing in and creating resources for deaf and hard of hearing children, their families, and the professionals who work with them.
Over 50 degree programs, with online and continuing education for personal and professional development.
Innovating solutions to break down barriers, and using science to prove what does and doesn’t work.
We make it easy for you to apply and enter here.
Ready to take the next step toward a college education?
Make lasting memories and grow in ways you never thought possible.
The fifth annual Lavender Graduation ceremony, a celebration featuring the 2016 graduates from the LGBTQA community, including allies, was held May 11 at the cafeteria’s second floor.
Class of 2017 members Sean Norman and Stephanie Niaupari emceed the ceremony. Edgar Palmer, ’77, executive director of the Office of Diversity and Equity for Students, opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks, thanking the audience for coming to support the graduates. He also mentioned the importance of vigilance in the continuing struggle for civil rights for LGBTQA people.
Dr. Cara Miller, G-’10 & PhD ’11, coordinator, LGBTQA Resource Center, acknowledged the positive direction the ceremony took.
“The LGBTQA Resource Center is thankful to the administration and all of our supporters within and outside of the University,” said Miller. “Lavender Graduation is truly a community effort and a celebration of community support in light of the challenges that many LGBTQA students face on the road to graduation. It is quite fitting that this year’s speakers discussed the power of and importance of love! As we continue to advance the movement for LGBTQA rights, we must acknowledge and address intersectional injustices, lift up those who are doing good work, and make time for celebration.”
Several awards were handed out, in the following order: “Drago Renteria Commitment to the LGBTQA Community Award” (the highest award to honor a student who provided extraordinary service and outstanding leadership in helping to strengthen the LGBTQA community and promote LGBTQA issues and awareness) to Morgann Smith; “Faculty/Staff Commitment Award” (bestowed upon a staff or faculty member for going above and beyond to support LGBTQA students and the LGBTQA Resource Center) to Dyana Thurgood, G-’15; “Most Distinguished Ally Award” (bestowed upon an ally who is recognized for their strength in advocating for equality and equity for the LGBTQA community) to Kellynette Gomez; and the “Rainbow Keeper Award” (bestowed upon a department, program, or campus organization that worked proactively to promote an LGBTQA-affirming campus climate) to the Department of Social Work.
Morgann Smith, ’14 & G-’16, who graduated with a M.A. in social work, gave the ceremony’s student address and shared one of her success stories that occurred during her student teaching.
Smith described an experience she had with an eight-year old student who she worked with. “She initially brushed me off and called me disgusting for being with another woman. However, after explaining and educating her, she came around and gave me two drawings. One said ‘I love you’ with flowers and hearts; another was of a lotus flower,” said Smith.
A lotus flower, Smith explains, represents a new beginning and new opportunity for success, as lotuses are beautiful flowers that can successfully grow from thick, muddy water.
“This was the turning point for the student’s appreciation of diversity and differences,” said Smith.
She went on to encourage the audience to always be authentic. “Always show kindness, compassion, and love. Any new beginning can make it through the clearest or murkiest waters when they are allowing the lotus within themselves to grow.”
She concluded her address by explaining the importance of a support system and thanked the audience for its support.
Storm Smith, ’10, video producer and director with the Department of Institutional Advancement, was the keynote speaker of the ceremony.
“For a long time, growing up, I wore so many jackets that they really started to pile up on me. People had so many expectations of me as a deaf black young woman. It really began to get overwhelming,” said Smith.
“At one point, it became too much. I finally decided to take off jackets one by one, revealing my real self. Every time I did that, I felt lighter,” said Smith.
Smith shared advice with the graduates about happiness, and received huge applause.
“My secret advice for being happy is-love yourself first,” said Smith. “Always love yourself, and never compromise your standards for anyone else. As long as you believe in yourself, everything will fall in place.”
President Roberta J. Cordano, who followed Smith’s keynote speech with remarks to the audience, agreed with Smith’s advice.
“Always love yourselves; don’t weigh yourselves down with jackets,” said Cordano.
The ceremony concluded with purple tassels, stoles, and Lavender diplomas handed to the graduates by administration members, and a group picture of all graduates under the large “2016” logo was taken. A reception for graduates and guests was held following the ceremony.
Roberto E. Wirth, E-’74 & H-’09, passed away on June 5 in Rome, Italy. Mr. Wirth was owner and managing director of the Hotel Hassler in Rome, one of the most prestigious family-owned hotels in the world, and owned several other hotels and resorts throughout Italy. He was a strong advocate for deaf people in...
Alumnus Timel Benton has signed a contract with the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Benton, who graduated last month, is the first Gallaudet Bison to sign a professional football contract since Tony Tatum signed on with the Utah Blaze in the now-disbanded Arena Football League (AFL) in May 2013. Benton was...
James Caverly, ’11, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, will play Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which opens tonight and runs through July 23. The show’s official opening is on Thursday, June 23. Sandra Mae Frank, ’13,...
Andrew Greenman, '10
For any other media inquiry, please contact:
Gallaudet University is a federally chartered private and premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing since 1864.
Copyright © 2021 Gallaudet University. All rights reserved.
800 Florida Avenue NE Washington, D.C. 20002
Spring 2021 – Dec 12Fall 2021 – May 15