Flagler’s Class of 2023 is the second graduating class to take part in a Baccalaureate ceremony, a long-standing academic tradition newly adopted by the College. Vice President of Academic Affairs, Art Vanden Houten, opened the ceremony by distinguishing Baccalaureate as a private celebration of upcoming graduates ahead of Commencement.
“Graduation, the ceremony at which degrees are formally conferred, is an appropriately public event where families and the broader community are invited and welcome to participate,” he said. “A baccalaureate service is a more intimate affair, and takes place entirely within the community of college or university.”
At the beginning of the ceremony, seniors were embraced by the nostalgic words of a peer. Senior Colleen Murphy, English major and featured student in the St. Augustine Poet Fest, read her poem titled “Sainthood,” giving her classmates the opportunity to reflect on small moments that define the Flagler experience.
Excerpt from “Sainthood”
By Colleen Murphy
So you will now walk,
Saint-like amongst the crowds you will encounter,
knowing you were nurtured under mahogany and marble,
that you learned under the guise of history watching you..
Railroad spike in hand,
forging way through coquina and palm.
knowing that if you ever want to come home,
you follow the Florida Railway along the East Coast
until you reach St. Augustine.
And a friendly passerby will smile and
will naively point you in the direction of the castle,
as if it isn’t already yours.
Well wishes from President Delaney
Reflecting back on his own college experience, President Delaney encouraged the seniors to appreciate the relationships they’ve formed at Flagler.
“The undergraduate experiences, those memories and friendships, they’re going to stick with you long after you leave this college,” he said.
And he recognized the level of commitment the graduating class has maintained to reach this point in their undergraduate experience.
“Going to college requires sacrifice,” Delaney said. “It’s not just handed to you. You have to give something up. You have to invest in yourself. It’s not an easy four-year journey, but you’ve made it to this point.”
Performance by Visiting Professor Scott Swan
Selected by the senior class as faculty speaker for the Baccalaureate ceremony, Scott Swan is a professor of humanities. He joined Flagler’s faculty in 2020 and recently earned his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Florida State University.
While reflecting on what characterizes the moment seniors find themselves in, Swan selected a song to perform that he felt captured the emotions of this transitional time in their lives.
“You’re on the cusp, you are literally sitting on the threshold,” he said. “You are going into an uncertain future. And that uncertainty will be your constant companion. Change will be that constant.”
He introduced the 1971 song by Jackson Browne “Looking into You,” as a story about the past, the future, and our concept of home. He challenged the students to find a connection to the lyrics and ponder on the unknown ahead of them.
“This performance isn’t about me,” he said. “Insert yourself into this and take that moment, because you are on that cusp- linger in it. It’s very bittersweet and it should be.”
Excerpt from “Looking Into You”
By Jackson Browne
“Well I looked into a house I once lived in
Around the time I first went on my own
When the roads were as many as
The places I had dreamed of
And my friends and I were one
Now the distance is done and the search has begun
I've come to see where my beginnings have gone”
Closing student speaker
Continuing the theme of finding comfort in change, senior Caroline Diefendorf called on her peers to take heed of the lessons they learned at Flagler and move into the next chapter of their life with an appreciation for uncertainty.
“Embrace the fact that we once again get to reinvent ourselves as we leave college and understand that it is never too late in life to forge the path we want to create,” she said.
She encouraged the Class of 2023 to selflessly use the knowledge they’ve been equipped with.
“As you prepare to leave Flagler, I challenge you to think of this: What have you learned during your time at Flagler?,” Diefendorf asked, “And how will you use it to make not only yourself a better person, but also the world?”
Pledge to Flagler’s core values
To close the ceremony, Director of Alumni Engagement Whitney Shafer led the Class of 2023 in a pledge to Flagler’s core values.
“We hope that you will always consider these core values as a foundation to everything that you build in your life after Flagler,” she said. “When choosing a job, when volunteering in your community, or being a partner to someone you love.”
Flagler College Pledge
As a graduate of Flagler College,
I pledge to remain true to our core values:
To commit myself to a lifetime of transformative learning.
To inquire, to value the freedom of expression, and
to cherish the bonds of all of those who have taught me;
To build respectful and inclusive
communities wherever I may find myself;
To be an ethical citizen, committed to
honesty, integrity, and individual responsibility;
To be a thoughtful steward of natural and
financial resources, of one another,
and the historical legacy of Flagler College.
I will diligently pursue the advancement of my own
knowledge, cultivate compassion for my community,
and never stop pursuing a life well-lived.
It is with honor and humility, I make this pledge.