Campus gathers for annual Baccalaureate Service

On Friday, May 10, graduates, their family members, faculty, and staff gathered in Hayes Auditorium and Broyhill Theatre for the traditional Baccalaureate Service.

Held each year the night before students cross the stage at Commencement to receive their diplomas, the Baccalaureate Service is an evening of scripture, a hooding ceremony, and words of wisdom and well wishes from faculty and staff.

With families and friends by their seats, faculty, staff, and the graduates processed in with the guidance of members in the Order of the Tower—the college’s presidential leadership organization—and the unmistakable sound of bagpipes.

The evening began with a benediction from Banner Elk United Methodist Church Rev. Ted Henry and a welcome from Provost and Dean of Faculty Todd Lidh and President Lee King.

“It’s an honor for me to get the chance to speak to you tonight,” King began. “Especially to our graduates.”

King then said he had a short message to share with those who, in less than 12 hours or so, would be entering a new chapter in their lives.

Almost 29 years ago during his own commencement ceremony, King explained, he was approached by the chaplain of his alma mater for the traditional scripture reading. In a moment’s notice, King was at the front of the line with the platform party, bible in hand.

“[The chaplain] pointed to a page and said, ‘here, read this one—good luck’…little did I know that verse thrown at me in the front of the graduation line would become one of my favorites.”

The verse was 1 Timothy 4:12.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in the speech, in your conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.

“Enjoy your youth—embrace it, cherish it, and make lots of great memories while you have it,” King said. “But don’t let that youth excuse you from living an honorable life that others look up to. Be an example in this crazy world through your speech, your conduct, in your love, and in your diligence to those three things. Congratulations, Class of 2019. Thank you for making Lees-McRae the wonderful place it is. We are so proud of you, and go Bobcats!” 

Both Lidh’s and King’s remarks were followed by a scripture reading from senior and double major in psychology and wildlife biology Mary Whiteacre before a performance by the college’s choral ensemble, The Highlanders.

Before leaving graduates with warm wishes from faculty and staff, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Program Coordinator Michael Hannah guided the students through the traditional hooding ceremony. During his talk, Hannah shared the history behind the unique but ubiquitous academic regalia, how variations in its appearance indicate levels and types of degrees, and how to properly wear a hood in preparation for Commencement.

Row by row, graduates—with assistance by the students in the row in front of them—gently put on their hoods. The students buzzed with excitement now that they were one step closer to the moment they had all been waiting for.

Before the night could conclude, three faculty and staff members shared their thoughts with the class of 2019. Dean of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and Assistant Professor Billy Carver, Registrar Lynn Hinshaw, and Associate Professor of Education and Program Coordinator Lynn Swann gave remarks.

Hinshaw shared about her early days as an employee of Lees-McRae, and invited students to go out and find their dream job just as she had.

“It’s been a blessing to come to work each day and hopefully make a difference in the lives of our students,” she said. “Graduates, my wish for you is that you find a career that ignites your passion—find your dream job. It may take one or two, or five or six different jobs, but just be patient and you will find it. When you do, you will know it. When you leave here tomorrow, my hope is that we have equipped you with the knowledge, support system, courage, and determination to find that dream job.”

Once the Baccalaureate Service had concluded, everyone reunited outside of the auditorium to prepare for the day to come: Commencement.

By Nina MastandreaMay 13, 2019
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