As the Williston Northampton School gathers together for this opening of the school year, we have an opportunity to have a few moments of reflection. Although this is obviously not the real beginning, it is the formal beginning as we convoke to celebrate the start of school. I ask that we reflect on where we are, where we have come from, and where we expect to be metaphysically at the end of the school year. We would like all of us to be here physically.
We all had some experiences this summer that offered a new perspective on life. In the next nine months—until the closing ceremony of Commencement for you seniors, followed by assessments for the rest of the students—I ask that we prepare ourselves for transitions that will come during the year.
So what is this event called Baccalaureate, this evening with the members of the senior class, their mentors, and their parents? It is historically a religious celebration dating from the Middle Ages when universities were first established.
The first Baccalaureate service was likely held at Oxford University in Oxford, England in 1432, and in some cases graduating students receiving their Bachelor’s Degree—the bacca part—had to give a speech in Latin before they received their laurels—the laureate piece. Because the universities were connected to the Christian Church and because the Renaissance was the rebirth of classical learning, the Baccalaureate appropriately combined the power of the church with the traditional search for wisdom through learning.