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Ken Beckley

Last modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2002

New Baccalaureate ceremony to be held May 3

Baccalaureate, long an ecumenical celebration of academic achievement held the day before Commencement at Indiana University's Bloomington campus, will be observed in 2002 with a new interfaith ceremony on May 3.

The 45-minute ceremony will follow the Graduation Send-Off at Bryan House and will begin at 5 p.m. in the IU Auditorium. The program is open to all members of the class of 2002 and their parents, friends and family.

The word baccalaureate is steeped in academic tradition. Stemming from at least the eighth century, it has come to refer not only to the degree that is awarded at Commencement, but also to a spiritual observance that celebrates achievement, accomplishment and aspiration. At Indiana University, records show that a Baccalaureate ceremony has been held prior to Commencement for at least 165 years.

The 2002 Baccalaureate service will pay tribute to wisdom and learning within a framework of the world's great faith traditions, all of which are represented at Indiana University. The ceremony will draw from the teachings and practices of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, and it will include prayers, scriptural readings, music and other observances.

The interfaith ceremony was created after IU President Myles Brand asked the Bloomington Commencement Committee to look anew at the observance.

"The president felt that our previous ceremony, although quite moving, didn't always meet the expectations of the audience in attendance," said Kenneth A. Beckley, president and CEO of the IU Alumni Association, and chair of the University Commencement Committee.

Beckley added, "The graduates and their guests appeared to be looking for a religious ceremony that would satisfy their need for spirituality at a time of great change in their lives."

Beckley stressed that this year's ceremony will draw on one of Indiana University's greatest strengths, its multicultural diversity.

"Indiana University's students, faculty and staff are from different backgrounds and places, and celebrate different rites. Yet we come together in harmony and mutual respect, united by a quest for knowledge and learning. We are a community that strives to maintain its sense of solidarity, caring and compassion. That spirit of caring and compassion, along with love, tolerance and forgiveness, infuses all of the great religions."

A 22-person committee, including campus chaplains, students, faculty and staff, and representatives of the major faith traditions that will be part of the first service, has worked on the ceremony for several months.

"We are looking forward to this new ceremony," Beckley said. "We believe many will appreciate a moment of respite in the crowded Commencement calendar."