Salutations, inspiration, poetry, song, and blessings echoed through Abbey Chapel as the class of 2008 gathered with family and friends for the baccalaureate service. A Mount Holyoke tradition since 1875, the service reflects the medieval European custom of presenting bachelor (bacca) degree candidates with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. After opening words by the Reverend Sherry Tucker MAT '92, chaplain to the College and advisor to the Protestant community, President Joanne V. Creighton spoke to the senior class. Creighton expressed her hope that the graduates were leaving Mount Holyoke feeling "connected to the long line of empowered women who have passed through these gates…. I also hope that in your mind and in your heart, you feel connected to the mission of the College, and feel impelled to connect to a world so needing enlightened citizens."
Sarah Binns '08--who placed second at the 2008 Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Contest--then read "What She Grew," a poem in which Mary Lyon surveys her legacy. "What does she think of us, growing/up from the ground she planted but living in a landscape she finds unrecognizable?/Does she think we, too, will change the face of the future?" Binns wrote.
Following Binns' reading was a performance by the 2008 Baccalaureate Choir, directed by Kimberly Dunn Adams. Ten seniors were among the students singing "Velejuns" (The Wish).
In her speech, Alexandra Toomey '08 acknowledged all that can happen in four years. During the past four years, in addition to "the Red Sox winning the World Series--twice" Toomey noted that "we--the class of 2008--came to Mount Holyoke College. We came in search of an education. We came in search of a type of camaraderie achievable only through a belief in sisterhood…. For the past four years, we have been taught to question the world, but to trust ourselves. We have been taught to say what we mean, and to mean what we say…."
Megan Núñez, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry, was one of two faculty members invited to deliver a baccalaureate address. Noting how fairy tales often begin with wishes being bestowed on a new baby princess, Núñez offered the seniors her wish for them. "Health and happiness, fames and riches--that's too easy," she said. "What I wish for each of you is a sense of wonder. In this chapel today, there are hundreds of individual stories of wonder…. And what a diverse set of things you found wonder in: proteins and poetry; cubes and Cuban Americans; matriarchs and moral relativism; flies and Faust; Dickens and discreet math, just to name a few…. Your sense of wonder rekindled my own and gave purpose to my work here and for this, I am deeply grateful."
The other faculty speaker, John Grayson, Professor of Religion on the Alumnae Foundation, described being selected to speak at the baccalaureate service as "an honor…and an awe-full responsibility." His address, "Only the Strong Shall Thrive," referenced a poem by Robert William Service titled "The Law of the Yukon." Grayson's remarks offered an alternative vision "of what it means to survive (or thrive) and be strong." In addition to focusing on how to assure the survival of those most vulnerable, Grayson also referenced the recent tragedies in Myanmar and southwestern China. "These events remind us that none of us 'survive' unless we all survive…. My existence is linked to yours, and yours is linked to mine; my survival requires that I act on behalf of your survival. We all are morally obligated to one another…."
The service's final word came from the Reverend Gladys G. Moore, dean of religious and spiritual life and director of diversity and inclusion, who offered the seniors a blessing on the eve of their commencement.
By John Grayson, Professor of Religion on the Alumnae Foundation
By Alexandra Toomey '08