RPI To Celebrate Cultural Diversity of Student Graduates

Ceremonies to be held in advance of 217th Commencement Ceremony on May 20

May 11, 2023


With graduation season in full swing, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is hosting the Lavender Graduation and Garnet D. Baltimore Students of Color Graduation ceremonies to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Class of 2023 graduates.

The Rensselaer Lavender Graduation, an annual celebration of graduating LGBTQAI+ students and members of the LGBTQAI+ community, will be held on Wednesday, May 17 at 3 p.m. in the Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Lavender Graduation is an LGBTQAI+ graduation celebration that was founded at the University of Michigan by Ronni Sanlo in 1995. In the years since, Lavender Graduation has spread to a number of colleges and universities around the country.

The event serves as an opportunity to celebrate the unique achievements and obstacles that many LGBTQIA+ students experience while studying at, and graduating from, a prestigious and rigorous institution of higher education like Rensselaer, and to recognize individual students, faculty, staff, and alumni for their contributions to the campus community.

This year’s Lavender Graduation will feature speaker Heidi Knoblauch, a local entrepreneur and former owner of the Plumb Oyster Bar in Troy, who is currently the interim director of the Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation at Empire State Development. 

The Garnet D. Baltimore Students of Color Graduation and Reception is held to honor the accomplishments of all the African diaspora, Latinx/a/o, and indigenous students who are graduating from Rensselaer. 

The ceremony will be held at Rensselaer’s Heffner Alumni House beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 18. It is being co-sponsored by IBM.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code. To learn more about the organization, visit the Girls Who Code website.

Garnet D. Baltimore was the first African-American to earn a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer in 1881. Baltimore participated in the design and building of bridges, railroads, canals, and waterways around New York state. Designer of many cemeteries, Baltimore found his true calling as a landscape engineer.

He made his most notable and longstanding contribution to Troy in 1903 when he designed the once-private lands of Mount Ida into the popular Prospect Park, one of Troy’s greatest assets.

Rensselaer will host its 217th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 20, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the East Campus Athletic Village stadium.

Written By Tracey Leibach
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