Even though the college's Baccalaureate and Commencement have been postponed by three months because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the original date still included a bit of celebration.
Presented via the college’s Facebook account on Sunday, May 3, “Keeping Hope: Celebrating the Class of 2020” featured a mix of live and pre-recorded congratulations, encouragement and meditations from more than a dozen members of the faculty and staff. The venue also enabled the audience to post well-wishes and reflections along the way. More than 1,000 people tuned in, with more than 360 peak live viewers.
The format was informal, although President Matthew A. Scogin, Provost Cady Short-Thompson and Dean of the Chapel Trygve Johnson donned their academic regalia for the event. And just as the faculty and students had completed the semester since spring break via remote learning from home, most of the messages were shared the same way.
“All your hard work has paid off. You’ve become better critical thinkers, communicators, problem solvers, listeners and learners,” said Jill VanderStoep, assistant professor of mathematics. “And all of this done with your faith cemented securely at the center. You’re exactly what the world needs right now.”
“Hope is a better place because you were here. We thank you for that,” said Chuck Green, professor of psychology. “Now go make the rest of the world a better place, too. I’m excited to see all the many ways you’ll do that.”
“We are so proud of you,” said Amy Otis, senior director of the Fried Center for Global Engagement. “One of my favorite quotes is from theologian Frederick Buechner, and it’s this: ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ That is my prayer for each of you: that you may discover your deep gladness and you will see how that meets the world’s hunger as you go out and make a difference in it.”
Framing the opening portion of his remarks as a letter to the future, Scogin reflected on the character of the class. As a cohort raised in challenging times — from the 9/11 attacks, through the 2008 recession, to racial division, to the current pandemic crisis — the generation, he noted, has been unfairly said to have been coddled.
“They are in fact resilient. They are prepared for the ‘real world,’ whatever that is,” he said. “With grit and determination, their awareness of risk and threat makes them flexible, perceptive and good problem solvers. They are aware that evil does exist in the world, and that gives them a resounding commitment to character. They have values and they know what’s important.”
Switching from the letter to addressing the members of the class, Scogin encouraged them to face the future with a deep and meaningful hope informed by the Christian faith.
“You know that I love the word ‘hope,’” he said. “But it’s easy for that word to get lost as a platitude or to get watered down by the way that our culture uses it today. Today most people’s concept of hope is a weak desire, a wish: ‘I hope the weather is this good tomorrow,’ ‘I hope things return to normal soon.’ ‘I hope there’s a chance for me to watch “High School Musical” again tonight,”’”
“But true biblical hope is different,” Scogin said. “It’s not a weak desire, it’s not a wish, but rather it’s an assurance of how things will turn out. It’s a confident expectation that something good is about to happen.”
“And my charge to all of you is simply this: Take hope. Take the hope you have and use it to re-enchant the world,” he said. “You are well prepared in your field. Use that to run out into the world with confidence — into the darkest, ugliest, messiest corners of the world that you can possibly find, and bring God’s hope there.”
The May 3 event was recorded and is available on the college’s YouTube channel.
Baccalaureate and Commencement for the Class of 2020 have been rescheduled for the weekend of Aug. 1-2, contingent on the conditions at the time. Information about the Aug. 1-2 ceremonies and other events related to graduation is available at hope.edu/commencement.