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LGBT students honored at UI's 13th annual 'Rainbow Graduation'

BY HILLARY ROSENCRANTS | MAY 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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Twenty-five LGBTQ students were recognized at the University of Iowa’s 13th-annual Rainbow Graduation on Tuesday, and the community took the opportunity to honor the graduates and recent strides made at the UI.

Students were honored in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber with a brief description of their accomplishments, rainbow cords, and a handshake. Among the graduates were John Paul Horn, the student keynote speaker at the ceremony, and Jake Christensen, the 2013 recipient of the Catalyst Award.

Officials also announced several scholarships were also announced, including the UI’s 2013 recipients of the Matthew Shepard Scholarship, an Iowa-based scholarship that awards up to $40,000 to motivated LGBTQ students over the course of their education. Nadia Loeppke and Samuel Pitt won the awards at the UI this year.

Georgina Dodge, a recent recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater, University of California-Irvine, spoke about the future for the graduates.

“I remember how happy I was when I graduated, but I also remember feeling a little let down,” said Dodge, the UI’s chief diversity officer. “There’s always and inevitably some degree of regret as we move to one stage of our lives to another.”

One would never sense the regret based on the atmosphere of Rainbow Graduation, however — spirits were high as LGBTQ students and graduates performed both original piano compositions and a piece of performance poetry.

Christensen, in particular, was recognized for his achievements, having been at the forefront in the inclusion of sexual-identity and orientation questions in the UI’s admissions application.

“I would say that you should do your best to do something that matters to you,” Christensen said. “Be patient, and above all, be persistent.”

Christensen’s speech was followed by a speech from Kim Marra, a UI professor of American studies and theater.

Marra is particularly proud of the UI’s dedication to making LGBTQ students feel welcome.

“When LGBTQ people of my generation were going to college in the 1970s, a rainbow graduation was impossible — even unimaginable,” Marra said, who also faced extreme opposition from her mother when announcing her sexuality.

The UI has long been recognized for its acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, pioneering a human-rights policy that recognizes gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories.

Likewise, the university received widespread media attention for its 1992 hiring of Pat Cain and Jean Love, a high-profile lesbian couple, as professors at the law school.

Horn, who moved to the UI for college after growing up in Bakersfield, Calif., found that acceptance has been much more widespread in Iowa.

“I was tired of feeling like I had to live two separate lives — young professional me and gay me,” Horn said. “I’ve never felt like I had to hide part of myself here.”


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