HWS Chaplain Maurice Charles began this year’s interfaith Baccalaureate ceremony by describing the event as a “reflective pause” before Commencement, a cherished tradition for the Colleges that brought the graduating Classes of 2017 and their families together to celebrate their personal growth and accomplishments on the eve of graduation.
The Baccalaureate address was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and a trustee of Hobart and William Smith Colleges for nearly nine years. He asked the graduates to “embody disarming love” as they progress in life by embracing three ideas: by always being curious about their identities; by demonstrating love in personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional ways; and by demonstrating courage when putting love in action. A full transcript of Singh’s talk is available.
“Look at the selfless, iconic faithfulness around you. Look at those who embody this in your family, in the faculty, staff and trustees of the Colleges,” he said. “The scholarships and resources invested by people of good will, who do not know you except for love. And notice the faithful connections with your contextual neighborhood in the Geneva community.”
During his reflections, Singh, who was raised by a single mother in Chennai, India, described himself at an earlier age searching for a way to live a life of consequence. He shared how the lessons taught by HWS of “equity, service, citizenry and entrepreneurial leadership” are significant to the ability to affect change.
“Today we prepare to receive the next president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges because of the values of this place, and the investment it made in raising him up, and forming him to be the leader he is today,” said Singh, referring to Dr. Gregory J. Vincent ’83. “Your institutional DNA list is long, compelling and filled with courage. There is courage in these waters in Seneca, courage to experiment, to be entrepreneurial leaders and to live lives of consequence.”
Singh concluded his remarks by offering a blessing to President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D.’17 and Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D.’17 and their children, Kathleen and Madeleine. The blessing was received with a standing ovation by the crowd that filled Trinity Church.
Gearan, who introduced Singh, reflected on how the HWS Board of Trustees has been “remarkably well served” by the leadership of Singh and his commitment to social justice. “He brings his integrity and warmth, intellect and humor. A man born half way around the world in Chennai, India, who brings his wisdom and engaged ministry to this part of the world,” Gearan said.
The afternoon service also welcomed three student speakers, who chose religious texts and a West African proverb that spoke to their experiences as students at HWS.
Julia Wasserman ’17 discussed how she has learned understanding from her professors, her classmates and from her experiences. She thanked Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski for teaching her to think critically and without judgement, and reflected on the most important lesson she has received from her four years at HWS: “Difference is not only something to respect but to pursue,” she said.
Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17 described how the people he has worked with, studied under and admired at the Colleges have helped him begin to write his story. “Moving on from here, my plan is to return to Ghana and work full-time on my business, believing Africa is a hub of opportunities waiting to be unlocked,” he said. “HWS gave me the pen and notebook, and the courage to write this first chapter.
Lauren Carr ’17 reflected on how she has, “found and received so much love during my four years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges” from her professors, her peers and from the church community.
Additionally, Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata read a prayer for the Classes of 2017 that was written by the Rev. Lesley M. Adams D.D.’15, retired Chaplain of the Colleges.
The “Sending Forth” was issued by William Smith Dean Catherine Gallouët and Hobart Dean Eugen Baer P’95, P’97. The final blessing was offered by Chaplain Charles and Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life Julianne Miller.
Musical performances by HWS Chorale were conducted by Professor of Music Robert Cowles and included solo performances by Elena Parkins ’18, Victoria Martin ’17 and Jordan Loretz ’17. Other performers included the Midlakes brass ensemble and a trumpet performance by David Johnson.