As you rack up more and more “last time at Williams” experiences, please accept my heartfelt congratulations and good wishes for all that lies ahead in these next couple of weeks. And, as you make plans for the final hours of your undergraduate career, I want to extend an invitation to attend your Baccalaureate service in Chapin Hall on the day before Commencement – Saturday, June 3 at 5 p.m.
Each year lots of students ask what Baccalaureate is; of all the pieces of Commencement weekend tradition, it seems to be the least familiar. It’s a quieter, more reflective occasion than Commencement itself. I would say that gratitude is really the hallmark of the occasion: it’s a time to steep yourself in what this place, these years, these people have meant to you or made possible for you. If the Commencement ceremony is a time to celebrate the accomplishment of it all, then maybe Saturday afternoon’s “pre-ceremony” can be a time, just before you have your degree in hand at last, to ponder the meaning of it all, for one last time together.
By tradition Baccalaureate is steeped in spirituality – but not in any narrow sectarian sense. Our service will be broadly reflective of the diversity of your class, and of the depth of your reflection about the meaning and purpose of your education and your life. For some of you, an event that brings together many different forms of spirituality may be quite unfamiliar: it’s still a pretty rare thing in this world for people of different religions and no religion to sit respectfully and joyfully side by side at an occasion of prayerful reflection. That makes the fact that we do it here that much more significant.
The speakers at Baccalaureate tend to be at least as good as the speakers at Commencement. This year’s Baccalaureate address will be given by a former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins – whose wry and insightful poems I commend to you in suggesting that we’re in for a fine speech. President Falk will also offer you his parting reflections, which are always heartfelt and eloquent. The readings, music and prayers from many traditions will be given by your classmates – sealed with two great pieces of choral music sung by the Baccalaureate Choir (in which some of you are singing – thanks!) conducted by Nathan Leach and Jordan LaMothe. So your class’s fingerprints are all over everything – as well they might be, given who you all are. I hope Baccalaureate will add perhaps a little depth to all the breadth and height of your celebrations on the final weekend of your undergraduate career.
I hope you’ll be with us at Baccalaureate. I will always consider it an honor and a great joy to have been here with you – to have overlapped with you in this time and place. It’s already hard to imagine Williams without you. May these final weeks of final accomplishments and joyful spring be a time of wide blessing and deep satisfaction for you and all your friends and family.
Chaplain to the College