Riley Gaines to serve as Adrian College Spring Commencement speaker

Posted Monday, March 11, 2024
Author: Mickey Alvarado

Riley Gaines, a former NCAA competitive swimmer who was the 2022 Southeastern Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year competing for the University of Kentucky, will be Adrian College’s Spring 2024 Commencement speaker on Sunday, May 5.

Gaines is nationally known for campaigning against the participation of transgender women (also known as male-to-female, someone assigned the male gender at birth who identifies on the female spectrum), in women’s sports. In 2022, Gaines tied for fifth place while swimming for the University of Kentucky in the 200-yard NCAA freestyle championship against University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a male-to-female who became the first man who transitioned to win an NCAA Division I national championship.

Gaines lobbied her state representatives asking them to pass a law that would prohibit men who have transitioned into women from competing in women’s sports. Last year, she was a speaker at a Texas Senate committee in support of legislation that would prohibit transgender college athletes from competing in sports divisions that align with their new gender identity.

“This is an important issue that should be discussed at colleges and universities throughout the United States,” said Adrian College President Jeffrey Docking. “Adrian College has never shied away from presenting and debating substantive disagreements on campus. In fact, this is precisely the purpose of universities — to engage in civil discourse of controversial issues. We welcome Riley Gaines to our beautiful campus, and we feel confident our students will be inspired by her commencement address.”

Gaines visited San Francisco State University last year to speak about her campaign against transgender athletes in women’s sports at a Turning Point USA student chapter event and demonstrators inside and outside the room protested her message. After speaking, Gaines was escorted by law enforcement officers to shelter in a classroom, where she stayed for hours while protesters demonstrated. Gaines said she was physically struck twice by a person during the protest.

Andrea Milner, Adrian College Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, said the Adrian College community has always been open to discussion on a broad range of topics and she expects people will welcome the opportunity to hear what Gaines has to say.

“We look forward to providing Riley a welcoming atmosphere,” Milner said. “I’m excited to offer our graduates the opportunity to broaden their understanding of world issues and inspire them as they embark on their future endeavors.”

Additional information about the spring commencement can be found online at

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