An Illuminating Evening: the Class of 2006 Baccalaureate Service and Canoe Sing

Posted: May 28, 2006

At 9 pm, Mount Holyoke's senior class--garbed in caps and gowns--gathered with family and friends for the baccalaureate service in Abbey Chapel. This tradition, which reflects the medieval European custom of presenting Bachelor (bacca) degree candidates with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration, dates back to 1885 at the College. In its current form, the senior class selects two of its members and two faculty members to speak at the service. This year's speakers were Chloe Elizabeth Martin '06 and Jaime Chak-mei Tung '06, along with Robin Blaetz, chair of film studies, and Vincent Ferraro, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics and chair of international relations. Following a processional by college organist Larry D. Schipull, the baccalaureate service opened with a blessing from Shamshad Sheikh, Muslim student adviser and chaplain to the College.

Next, President Joanne V. Creighton greeted the congregation and welcomed the class of 2006 to "the penultimate moment, the night before you commence on the next stage of your life." She added, "I have a special place in my heart for you, class of '06. You have made this institution stronger with your energy and your good spirits and your hard work and talents." Creighton spoke about the connections that link generations of alumnae to each other and to Mount Holyoke: "I hope that during your time here you have connected your education with your passions and found a sense of purpose that will light up the rest of your lives."

The service continued with a reading by Martin, a resident of Rockport, Massachusetts, who is graduating with a philosophy major and a minor in history. A poet since childhood, Martin dedicated her latest piece--titled "A Time and Place Poem"--to "the families that we are given and the families that we find." Her poem referenced traces of Mount Holyoke's past that have been unearthed over time--"The underground prize was the water pump marking one corner of the original seminary"--and mused about what traces of memory will be left for future generations by this class.

A performance by the Baccalaureate Choir, directed by Catharine Melhorn, Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music, followed Martin's reading. The choir, comprised almost exclusively of seniors, performed "To Walk Beyond Dreams," a composition by Allen Bonde, professor of music. Leading them as student conductor was Katherine P. Vogele '06 of Lexington, Massachusetts, the 2006 recipient of the music department's Dorothy Chancellor Currey Scholarship for excellence in music. Melhorn, who is retiring this spring after 36 years as choral director, sang with the choir, which was accompanied on piano by Schipull.

When Tung took the podium, she recalled first learning about Mount Holyoke from "the flap of the script of a play." That script was for The Heidi Chronicles, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by MHC's beloved Wendy Wasserstein '71, who died in January. Tung, an English major and critical social thought minor from Edgewood, Washington, quoted the scene in which the play's main character, Heidi Holland, is asked, "How will you use what you know, Heidi?" Tung then told her classmates, "I like to think that we are all Heidi Hollands--women who are headstrong yet down-to-earth, women who hold the world in their hands, partly because of their preexisting gall and determination and partly because of the knowledge that has been garnered through this unique educational experience that is Mount Holyoke. So I will pose to you the very same question, class of 2006: How will you use what you know?"

In her address, Blaetz spoke of the importance of living one's life with courage and passion. She advised the class of 2006 to "go forward in the affirmative. As you enter the world, say yes much more often than you say no and don't worry about regrets. Remember that there are no 'wrong' turns in life; there are only turns, and each one is what makes up your life."

Ferraro spoke of the challenges facing this generation of graduates, acknowledging, "the next 50 years are probably going to be tough ones." He continued, "You can choose your preferred apocalypse: overpopulation, war, disease, global warming. Unfortunately, the list is long. But there will also be wonders beyond our limited imaginations: the promises of astounding medical and scientific breakthroughs, the growth of a vibrant and diverse global civic culture, the hope that globalization will lead to the recognition that all our fates are inextricably linked, leading to common purposes and destinies." In closing, Ferraro urged the class of 2006 to "above all, remember that this place, this singular and precious place, will always be here for you. It thrives by changing some of its parts because the world is never still. But its commitment to its values is enduring. And its commitment to help each of you attain your highest aspirations is unyielding."

The baccalaureate service concluded with a blessing by the Reverend Sherry Tucker MAT'92, chaplain to the College and adviser to the Protestant community.

Earlier in the evening, graduating senior Katherine L. Kraschel, a biochemistry major and the Student Government Association president, received Mount Holyoke's distinguished Presidential Scholar/Leader Award. Last awarded in 2004, it is given "from time to time to a graduating senior who has demonstrated both outstanding academic achievement and outstanding leadership in the community." When presenting the award to Kraschel at a dinner for honorary degree recipients, Creighton commended her success in "combining impressive original research and scholarship with spirited student leadership."

Related Links:

Baccalaureate Address
By Robin Blaetz, Associate Professor of Film Studies

Baccalaureate Address
By Vincent Ferraro, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics

Baccalaureate Address
By Jamie Chak-mei Tung '06

Baccalaureate Poem
By Chloe Elizabeth Martin '06

Photo Gallery

2006 Commencement Home Page