UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The year 2021 marks the 20th celebration of LGBTQ+ graduates during the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s Lavender Recognition ceremony.
Lavender Recognition is an inspiring and affirming ceremony that recognizes Penn State's LGBTQ+ students and their allies, acknowledging their achievements and contributions to Penn State regardless of campus. Since its inception 20 years ago, the Lavender Recognition ceremony has evolved over time as the center has grown and evolved, but the essence of the event has remained the same, to celebrate the journey of extraordinary students.
Due to COVID protocols, the celebration will be delivered via video again this year. The Lavender Recognition video will feature voices from across the University speaking to the graduates and sending inspirational thoughts. The Lavender Recognition video will be available to view at 6 p.m. April 30 on the center’s social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PennStateLGBTQ.
“This annual recognition is one of the most important pieces of programming that we deliver during the academic year. It is a time to not only celebrate the academic achievements of our graduating students, but also acknowledge their persistence, courage, and strength during their journey at Penn State as a member and/or supporter of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Sonya Wilmoth, interim director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. “We are disappointed in having to celebrate virtually again this year, but we look forward to returning the event to an in-person format in the spring of 2022.”
In addition to the recognition of graduates, the center’s scholarship and award winners are acknowledged in the video. Through the continued generosity of donors, the center is privileged to financially assist students who have moved sexual and gender diversity work forward during their time at Penn State.
Further information on the scholarships and awards, along with their requirements, can be found on the center’s website.
2021 scholarship winners
Allison Subasic Community Builder Scholarship
Awardee: Sarabeth Bowmaster (Major: women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and philosophy, Class of 2023)
Bowmaster is involved with the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity as a student staff member, working in a peer education role. She is a Paterno Fellow in the Schreyer’s Honors College and the founder and current president of the first League of Women Voters collegiate chapter at Penn State. This past summer, Bowmaster served as an orientation leader and emphasized the importance of diversity and celebration of the LGBTQ+ on our campus with each group of students she met.
Barry H. Marshall Scholarship
Awardee: Jameke Lamar Spencer (Major: criminology, class of 2021)
Spencer is an active ally to the LGBTQ+ community. He is a member of the Caribbean Student Association and the Urban Dance Troupe, and was the secretary and choreographer for the Black Student Union. In the spring of 2019, he showcased his first college choreography for the African Student Association, Black Student Union, International Student Association, and Caribbean Student Association (ABIC) Vogue fashion show.
Henderson and Marshall Military Leadership Scholarship
Awardee: Philip Baitinger (Major: economics, class of 2021)
Baitinger was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for four years. Currently, while pursing his degree, he is enlisted part-time in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard working in cybersecurity. Baitinger has supported various causes and candidates that support the LGBTQ+ community especially organizations associated with raising the voices of People of Color. He also shares ideas and organizations that promote the well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals through his social media platforms.
Lambda Alumni Outstanding Student Award
Awardee: Rafaela Pontes (Major: public relations, class of 2024)
LGBTQ+ representation in media is something very important to Rafaela, both professionally and personally. As a GLAAD campus ambassador, Pontes represents students and helps accelerate acceptance within her local community with the primary role to amplify LGBTQ+ youth voices and visions. GLAAD is a non-profit organization that was created to fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination and promote better media representation for queer individuals.
Richard Lamar Schlegel Scholarship
Awardee: Leo McDonough (Major: digital multimedia design, class of 2022)
In their freshman year of college, McDonough was one of the first people to express interest in creating a Gender-Sexuality Alliance on the Hazleton campus. McDonough has also held a part-time peer mentoring position at the Lions of Fusion Territory (LOFT) on the Hazleton campus since the Fall of 2019. In this role they have worked to provide a safe space for anyone who may need it, whether LGBTQ or otherwise.
Tom Strickler and Steve Artz Engineering Scholarship
Awardee: Zachary Ryan Neff (Major: civil engineering, class of 2021)
Neff is the founding father of a new fraternity chapter of Pi Lambda Phi, in which the creed stands for equality and fighting for the end of prejudice. He has been working to promote the fraternity among men in the LGBTQ+ community. Neff hopes to usher in a new era of fraternity life here at Penn State and believes one of the best ways is to combine multiple races, cultures, religions, and sexualities.
Awardee: Maria Alvarez-Rodriguez (Major: aerospace engineering, class of 2023)
Bruce R. Miller and Dean LaVigne Trustee Scholarship
Awardee: Leslin Mathews (Major: design and development, College of Information Sciences and Technology, class of 2025)
2021 award winners
Dr. Susan R. Rankin Award: Awardee: Marco Planchart (Major: psychology)
Academic Achievement Award: Awardee: Flora Oswald (doctoral candidate in psychology, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, class of 2024)
OUTstanding Service Award: Awardee: Katherine Mato, assistant teaching professor, arts and humanities, Penn State Abington