Baccalaureate, one of the most cherished traditions at the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, brought together the Classes of 2015, their families and friends, and members of the HWS and Geneva communities to celebrate the past, present and future of the Colleges through readings, song and reflection. This year’s program was held at Trinity Church on South Main Street.
During her address, “Here We Go Again,” Baccalaureate speaker HWS Chaplain Lesley M. Adams HON’12, HON’15, D.D. ’15, called upon the Classes and other attendees to consider: “How does it feel to be finished?” and “What are you going to do next?” Adams, who retires at the end of the academic year after two decades with the Colleges, reflected on the questions not only in light of her own transition, but also the transformation experienced by the graduating seniors.
“What an opportunity: every time someone asks, ‘What are you going to do next?’ I have the chance to process and reprocess this amazing set of experiences and relationships that change and grow with all its bumps and bruises along the way, and I have begun to realize that part of transitioning from one stage of life to another involves these ritual interactions, they are opportunities to process letting go,” Adams said.
She said that after a time, people begin to realize that life is a series of departures. These transitions allow for the opportunity to rethink the notion of identity, she said.
“So when people ask you, ‘what’s next?’ – take the opportunity to be present to the underlying question, ‘who are you becoming?'” Adams said. “Reflect on your changing identity. Are you becoming, ‘standing up for justice;’ ‘protecting the environment;’ ‘painting reality with a brush or a pen;’ ‘waiting for mystery to unfold?’ This practice of being present to change will serve us all well when we need to leave again, as we surely will.”
Adams said with each opportunity to let go, one has the opportunity to experience it through “faithfulness and grace.”
“When we practice letting go with gratitude and forgiveness, we find the possibility of moving joyfully into new life,” Adams said. “Learning to live lightly to our attachments, we can enjoy every bit to the utmost, yet let go easily and gracefully when the time comes.”
During her address, Adams also praised Aminata Dansoko ’15, Dollian A. Garo ’15, Max R. Feldman ’15 and Clara C. Lowenberg ’15, who each offered reflections and readings during the ceremony as the speakers from the Classes of 2015.
Adams’ speaker introduction was presented by President Mark D. Gearan, who reflected on the powerful and enduring difference she made at HWS during her tenure. He recognized and thanked her for her intellect, empathic qualities, guidance and genuine kindness in advancing the HWS community.
“We thank you for your service to Hobart and William Smith,” Gearan said. “Your hands and your effort have tilled the soil of good work on our campus and here in Geneva that will be sustained for generations to come. You have used your food, your strength and your senses to make a real difference here.”
The 2015 Baccalaureate service also included a reading by Provost and Dean of Faculty Titilayo Ufomata and a “sending forth” declaration fromWilliam Smith Dean Catherine Gallouët and Hobart Dean Eugen Baer HON’07, P’95, P’97.
Baccalaureate also included musical performances by HWS Chorale, led by Colleges Chorale Director Yunn-Shan Ma, and the HWS Gospel Choir, directed by Patrisha Blue ’77 of the Religious Life Office and Lucile Mallard L.H.D. ’15, president of the Geneva chapter of the NAACP. Mallard was one of five individuals awarded an honorary degree at HWS Commencement 2015.
The benediction and dismissal was presented by Interim Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel HWS Adviser Julianne Miller, and the service concluded with the customary recession of program participants led by Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures James-Henry Holland.
Midlakes Brass also played several pieces during the program. Colleges Organist MaryAnn Hamilton played the organ. Alexandra Baird ’17, Hannah Brooks ’17, Christine Moloney ’17 and Emma Reilly ’17 served as ushers.
A tradition dating to eighth-century England, the HWS community has celebrated Baccalaureate for more than 180 years.