For those graduating seniors looking for more than the typical commencement celebrations, the Campus Ministry offers the annual Baccalaureate service.
The keynote speaker for this year will be Rev. Michael Mata who will deliver a speech titled “The Dinosaur Died Because He Didn’t Dance.” The speech will focus on asking the graduates to expect the unexpected in life.
“We encourage speakers to speak in the spirit of our mission statement,” said Debbie Roberts, campus minister. “We ask the speaker to challenge our students to go out and think about being a part of a global community.”
Mata is well known in the Los Angeles area as an activist and is known for encouraging community empowerment.
He was recently awarded the 2004 Urban Shepard Award by the Los Angeles Methodist Urban Foundation.
This year’s service will also include a special performance, in which a choir of faculty and staff will sing under the direction of Scott Farthing, assistant professor of music.
They will be performing the song “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” by John Rutter.
“We thought it would be a nice way to send off graduating students,” Farthing said.
The service will take place Friday, May 27 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Church of Brethren.
The service usually begins with a greeting from the pastor of the church and an invocation by Roberts.
Students also participate in the form of readings from the Bible or from other religious books.
The main part of the ceremony is the keynote speaker, said Paul Alvarez, professor of movement and sports science and member of the Baccalaureate committee. A reception is held afterwards in the courtyard of the Church of Brethren.
Students and teachers who wish to attend do not need tickets but are required to wear their full regalia.
Each year Campus Ministry and the Baccalaureate committee holds the Baccalaureate service prior to the actual commencement ceremony as an opportunity for graduates and their families to celebrate commencement in a more intimate and spiritual way.
The event is open to people of all religious denominations and faith traditions.
“It is a great opportunity to re-connect with whatever spiritual believes drives them,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez has attended the event since he started working at the University of La Verne almost 18 years ago. He attended the service for the first time when senior faculty Owen Right invited him.
“I have always been very grateful that he asked me to come along,” Alvarez said. “It is a good opportunity to give thanks in the appropriate direction.”
Marilyn Oliver, professor of movement and sports science and member of the Baccalaureate committee, has attended almost every Baccalaureate service for the past 27 years.
“Sometimes you can get lost at a big commencement ceremony,” Oliver said, “This is a wonderful close intimate atmosphere to celebrate accomplishments.”
Past speakers have included David Radcliff, director of Brethren Witness: a peace and justice program of the Church of Brethren, and Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County supervisor.
Speakers are encouraged to relate their speeches to the University of La Verne’s mission statement and encourage graduates to live and work for the community, Roberts said.
Past years have also included dramatic performances from some of the graduating students.
“We feel like it’s one of our best kept secrets,” Roberts said.
Generally, about 450 people attend, approximately 100 of those are students. The remaining 350 people are friends and family, Roberts said.
“It is great to be thinking of who they are as spiritual people,” Roberts said. “Or if you want to be serenaded by your professor.”
Laura Bucio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.