President’s Baccalaureate Remarks

Saturday, May 18, 2024
by Elizabeth H. Bradley, President

I am delighted to have this ceremony as the anchor of the two days of celebration we are now entering. Thank you to the Council of ALANA Seniors for hosting the Class of 2024 and their families for this Baccalaureate Service. It is wonderful to be here with Mariam Eshetu (Chair of the Council of ALANA Seniors), Reverend Speers, Professor Shih, Dean Alamo, and our speaker and Vassar alum, Monica Macer (Class of ’93).

Congratulations, Class of 2024!

The beauty of Baccalaureate Service is in celebrating our diversity and our unity, together. We have come from so many different places—geographically, psychologically, socially, economically, and politically—and we are going (at least you all are) into so many different walks of life—professionally, artistically, academically, and personally.

The differences we share with each other create a thrilling moment…and opportunity. In fact, we sometimes talk about Vassar as “where edges meet”; where difference comes together—not to be forgotten or assimilated, and never to be segregated, but rather to be engaged—recognizing that our differences are what make us whole, as a community and as a college.

Vassar is forever changing because its classes change, and when you come to Vassar you bring your world with you—a world that no other person has exactly lived.

Then, ideally, in the classroom, in the dorm, in Gordon Commons (ok, the Deece), and on campus—you have expressed those worlds, bringing them into conversation with everyone else’s worlds.

And that meeting (clash?) is not easy. It can be tumultuous. It can be full of emotion—bewildering, uncomfortable at times, but ultimately uplifting and empowering.

And as we engage, as our pluralistic selves, we recognize what we do not know. Ideally, we become humble, recognizing we do not know and we cannot know all—rather we do well to stay “always in pursuit” of more understanding—never sure, never absolutist, never intransigent in our beliefs but rather forever learning.

In that—the commitment to be forever learning—we are united.

I am grateful to your class, who has taught me and Vassar so much about being resilient, caring about the larger world, and staying at the table to build community even amidst a pandemic, untimely deaths, social unrest, and human tragedy—you have been here. You have left your mark. Just one example is the life-giving Garden for the Celebration of Black Lives in the center of campus where we can pass every day and feel inspired. With this and so many other activities, you have persisted and created a social fabric in your class that has strengthened us all. Thank you.

Congratulations on this visible sign of your many accomplishments in what I hope will be a long line of joyous moments in your future lives.

See you tomorrow on Commencement Hill!