On Saturday night, as the bells in the clock tower of Mary Lyon Hall struck nine, the class of 2010--dressed in caps and gowns--processed into Abbey Memorial Chapel. There, they gathered with faculty, family, and friends to reflect upon their college years and contemplate the journey ahead. The Baccalaureate service, a Mount Holyoke tradition since 1875, reflects the medieval European custom of presenting bachelor (bacca) degree candidates with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration.
After opening words by Elizaveta Lozovaya, the College's Muslim chaplain, President Joanne V. Creighton greeted the seniors on "this penultimate moment, the night before you commence on the next phase of your life." Creighton spoke of the connections that link generations of alumnae to each other and to Mount Holyoke, and recounted how, in 2000, a time capsule from the class of 1900 to the class of 2000 was opened.
"In it was a message that said, in part, 'tell us that you love our college; that's the great bond between us.'…. I hope you all will feel connected to this beautiful place itself and to the special learning community that it is," said Creighton. "Know that Mount Holyoke is forever."
A reading by Shaina Tantuico '10 followed Creighton's greeting. Tantuico, a special major in policy, schooling, and the arts from Millbrae, California, was one of two students selected by the class of 2010 to speak at Baccalaureate. Her poem, "In Process," not only recognized a range of student experiences, but also honored the capacity to persevere and the power of self-transformation.
"We are here/We are alive," wrote Tantuico. "And we shake with the energy of beginnings we have fought for/We graduate into this/Something of our own making."
A performance by the Baccalaureate Choir followed Tantuico's poem. Conducted by Miguel Felipe, interim director of choral ensembles and visiting lecturer in music, the choir featured 24 graduating seniors.
The second student speaker was Grace E. Shim '10, a politics major and Romance languages and literatures minor from Bellevue, Washington. In her speech, Shim paid tribute to her mother and reflected upon the "craziness" that mothering requires. She then encouraged the class of 2010 to transition from being Mount Holyoke's "nurtured daughters" to women capable of "mothering the world," and she challenged her classmates to "love fully and give everything for the benefit of others." Shim urged them to "have the courage to be selfless in a selfish world…. Have the courage to be crazy enough to let go of your inhibitions and attempt the great things for which we surely are destined. Have the courage to challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone and know it is for the daughters of tomorrow."
The two faculty members selected by the class of 2010 as Baccalaureate speakers were Elizabeth K. Markovits, assistant professor of politics, and Paul Staiti, Professor of Fine Arts on the Alumnae Foundation. In her remarks, Markovits--who joined the faculty just two years ago--described how quickly her love affair with Mount Holyoke developed and how initially puzzled she was about how one could "fall in love with an institution."
"But this place is a promise that there is something more to the world than profit and loss statements, timecards, grocery shopping, cleaning house, résumés, and 401K plans," she said.
When Paul Staiti, Professor of Fine Arts on the Alumnae Foundation, took the podium, he meditated upon the students' plans for life after Commencement day.
"What to think? What to do? It's so perplexing, isn't it?" asked Staiti, who teaches courses on the history of American art and cinema. He then offered some "deep advice" from his "source of all wisdom, the movies" with a focus on that "special genre in American filmmaking: the post-B.A. film."
At the close his remarks, Stati urged the graduating seniors to think about their own movie--"the life you script, direct, and star in." Rather than write "one inviolable script for a movie that you've etched in stone in your head," he instead advised writing up "three or four or five plausible scenarios; attach yourself to no single one; keep writing and rewriting as time goes on; editing is good. Let scenarios unfold. Don't get anxious. Be flexible and inventive."
As the service concluded, the Reverend Gladys G. Moore, dean of religious and spiritual life and director of diversity and inclusion, offered the seniors a blessing on the eve of their commencement. Then, to the strains of Mendelssohn performed by College Organist Larry D. Schipull, the class of 2010 filed out of the chapel and dispersed across campus for one last night as Mount Holyoke undergraduates.