During Commencement weekend, graduating students, their families and members of the HWS community took time to celebrate, reflect and give thanks during the annual Baccalaureate ceremony.
With prayer and music, the 2021 Baccalaureate ceremony highlighted the personal and spiritual journeys of members of the HWS community.
In her keynote Baccalaureate Address, Associate Professor Emerita of Africana Studies Marilyn Jiménez P’12 reflected on her Afro-Caribbean heritage and the spiritual practices that offer “a way of recognizing, and an awareness of the transcendence of, the spirit.”
Jiménez’s talk, titled “Spiritual Fusion,” reflected on the African diaspora and the “fusion of art, life and spirit” that “formed the foundation of my intellectual life.” Through the work of faculty and student groups like Sankofa, LAO and the Caribbean Student Association, Jiménez said, that idea of fusion also inspired the evolution of the multicultural curriculum during her tenure at HWS.
The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and Hobart and William Smith Trustee, offered a prayer calling for help to “move our best intentions to actions that transform our common nightmares into lifegiving dreams” and “foster a sense of belonging to collaborate and rebuild the lives of all.”
The afternoon service also welcomed three student speakers who shared biblical readings and reflected on their experiences at HWS.
Edie Falk ’21 spoke on the theme of welcoming the stranger and her experiences on campus at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and other “spaces of belonging, friendship and acceptance” that shaped her time on campus.
Jane Anne Lawrence ’21 shared the impact of attending services on campus at St. John’s Chapel, where she found the gift of community and inspiration to serve the campus through the mental health activism club Beautiful Minds. “I found that here this ritual of breaking the bread every Sunday gave me a sense of purpose….Because I was given this gift, I felt confident enough to do this elsewhere in the HWS community,” she said.
Meg Quint ’21 recounted the importance of weekly Shabbat celebrations at the Abbe Center. Quoting the philosopher and poet Ahad Ha’am, who said, “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews,” Quint intends to keep the ritual going forward because it has “kept time for me, kept me happy, kept me immersed in a community of loving people.”
Dean of Spiritual Engagement and Chaplain of the Colleges Nita Byrd and Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel Adviser Julianne Miller presided over the Baccalaureate ceremony. Musical performances by HWS Chorale were conducted by Professor of Music Robert Cowles.
Before the final call and response — led by William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig P’22 and Hobart Dean Scott Brophy — Provost and Dean of Faculty Mary L. Coffey read a prayer, written for the Classes of 2021 by the Rev. Lesley M. Adams D.D.’15, retired Chaplain of the Colleges.
“Let them learn from the past, live in the present and hope for the future,” Coffey read. “Bless them with a desire for justice. Let them cast a critical eye on the world, ask the hard questions and take courageous action. Bless them also with the desire for love. Let them continue to live lives of consequence, caring for others even as they care for themselves.”