Commencement weekend continues with Baccalaureate

students exiting baccalaureate

The University of the South holds three ceremonies to mark commencement weekend on the Mountain.  A Convocation for the Conferring of Degrees was held in All Saints’ Chapel on Friday, May 12, to graduate 43 seminarians from the School of Theology with a variety of degrees and honors. Honorary degrees were presented to three bishops with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging contributions to the Church: the Rt. Rev. Harold William Godfrey, former bishop of Peru; the Rt. Rev. José Antonio McLoughlin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina; and the Rt. Rev. David C. Rice, provisional bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Rice delivered the sermon during the graduation service.

The second of three weekend ceremonies began under cloudy skies Saturday morning, May 13, as the members of the class of 2017 followed the University faculty—and valedictorian Tran Ly and salutatorian Courtney Saunders—into the Baccalaureate Service in All Saints’ Chapel.

Tran Ly and Courtney Saunders baccalaureate

Four honorary degrees were presented during the service, to astrophysicist and author Arnold Benz; Brad Gioia, C’76, headmaster at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville; cancer researcher Ching-Hon Pui; and Emilie M. Townes, dean and Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. More information about each of the recipients is here

Pui delivered the Baccalaureate address, sharing some of the experiences that have shaped his life and career and four lessons learned from those experiences. He recalled that he had not been a particularly good student growing up in Hong Kong, until a fifth-grade teacher gave him a possibly undeserved compliment. Her comment motivated Pui to not disappoint her and inspired his academic life. The lesson to the graduates: “Be unfailingly kind and compassionate to those you encounter in your professional lives, especially the poor, the sick, and the powerless.”

Ching-Hon Pui at baccalaureateA middle-school movie viewing was life-changing for Pui. It told the story of a child dying of leukemia, and set Pui on the road to becoming a physician. After he was admitted to a residency program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he had the opportunity to conduct decades of research on childhood leukemia, and his findings and outreach have helped improve cure rates and quality of life for leukemia patients around the world. He reminded the Class of 2017 to follow their passion, and “dream big.”

Pui spoke with intensity about a particular patient who defied all the odds to survive and thrive, and who demonstrated the resilience he admires in his patients. The Chinese saying “Failure is the mother of success” reminds us to be stubborn and be patient, as it can lead to near-miraculous results. He asked the audience to not give up easily.

Finally, Pui encouraged the class to approach conventional wisdom with skepticism. An example from medical textbooks that has now been countered by his own research and experience showed the value of questioning assumptions. Challenging the conventional wisdom, he said, is the best path to discovery in all intellectual pursuits. He concluded by asking the students to find their own passion, pursue it with intensity and imagination—and wherever they go, to take their Sewanee angels with them. Read Pui's address.

Following Baccalaureate was the initiation into Phi Beta Kappa of 18 members of the Class of 2017. Twenty-two members of the class previously had been initiated in ceremonies held in October and in February.

Congratulations to Sewanee’s newest members: Sara Anne Balte, Lydia Abigail Cook, Sonia Catalina Francone, Veronica Gordillo-Herrejon, Colin Michael Harper, Iris Susanne Harrison, Lillian Reid Howell, Andrea Grey Jones, Kathleen Delaney Kelso, Margaret Rose Lebow, InSoo Lee, Darby Joseph McGlone, Sarah Tillman Reeves, Grayson LeMaster Ruhl, Lily Castle Tidwell, Joseph Parker Turner, Kimberly Nicole Williams, and Huiqi (Sherlock) Xu.

Members of the class of 2017 who were previously initiated are Anne Barry Adams, Claire Linnea Burgess, Hayden Byrd, Martha Overton Dinwiddie, Grace Gibson, Meaghan Gray, Maren Augusta Louttit Johnson, Kathleen Ann Kull, Zack Fox Loehle, Tran Ly, Mark Overton McAlister, Benjamin Andrew McKenzie, Jennifer Ashley Merriman, Samantha Meyer, Nathaniel Richard Nelson, Duncan Scott Pearce, Lucas Charles Peglau, Henry Person, Courtney Saunders, Harang (Chris) Song, Virag Imola Turcsan, and Christian Nicole Whittemore.

See photos from the weekend here (updated each day). 

On Sunday, May 14, a Convocation for Conferring of Degrees will be held at 10 a.m. in All Saints’ Chapel for the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Letters. The Convocation will be shown on closed-circuit TV in McClurg Dining Hall (tickets needed) and in Guerry Auditorium. A picnic luncheon honoring the Class of 2017 graduates will follow.