By George S. Bridges

Whitman College Baccalaureate
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Welcome! As the President of Whitman College, I am honored to welcome you to today’s celebration.

Baccalaureate is a time for reflection and commemoration – a moment of spiritual contemplation and sustenance. We are particularly grateful today for our four speakers and the wisdom they will share with us – and also for our performers who will grace us with their music. Thank you all.

I’d like to start our service by recognizing Adam Kirtley, the Stuart Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life. In addition to his many roles on campus, Adam always offers the opening reflection for our Baccalaureate service. His insight, sensitivity, and thoughtful meditations mark him as a particularly apt counselor for our campus. He works hard to open up questions to the spiritual dimension, showing us the over-arching relevance of sacred space in every life. His talk today is titled, “Coexist?” Please join me in welcoming Adam Kirtley.

Coexist?
Adam Kirtley, Stuart Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life and Adjunct instructor of General Studies

Now we have the pleasure of hearing from Carrie Sloane, who is graduating with a degree in music performance, and a minor in studio art. According to Dr. Susan Pickett, “Carrie has been the consummate Whitman College Music major: in one way or another she has been present at nearly every music event during the past four years, either as a performer or cheering for her peers. She has been a bedrock for the Whitman Orchestra and for innumerable chamber music performances.” Dr. Pickett adds, “She will be sorely missed!” Carrie will be playing Bach’s Prelude from the Cello Suite Number one in G.

Musical Interlude
Prelude from cello suite no. 1 in G, BWV 1007 by Bach
Carrie Sloane ’12, cello

Our featured student speaker today is Elana Congress, who graduates tomorrow with a degree in philosophy. Elana is someone who erases the boundary of the Whitman bubble – moving beyond it in truly thoughtful and innovative ways. She is a founding member of the Network for Young Walla Walla – a group that seeks to bridge the divide between the three college campuses in town. She is also the Volunteer Coordinator for Whitman Cycling, and was recently a presenter at our Undergraduate Conference. In addition to being selected as our student speaker for Baccalaureate this year, Elana is receiving the Shalom Mensch award – an award given jointly by Hillel-Shalom and Congregation Beth Israel. Elana will be giving a talk today that is titled “The line.”

The Line
Elana Congress ’12, Student Speaker

Now we have the opportunity to hear from an outstanding member of our staff who is retiring at the end of this year. Rich Jacks is the associate dean of students for health and wellness, and the director of counseling/health services. He has been at Whitman since 1979, and he says that the “constant process of challenge and renewal” is a part of why he loves his job. (I love that line, and may steal it myself.) Rich has also served on campus as an associate professor of psychology, and the faculty representative for the ski team – and has served in the Walla Walla community as president of the school board. We will all be sorry to see him retire, but we're excited to see what new projects Rich will unveil next. His talk today is titled “Stories from the Counselor’s Chair.”

Stories from the Counselor’s Chair
Rich N. Jacks, PhD, Staff Speaker

As our program continues, we will be enjoying a musical interlude from another of our graduating seniors: Sam Epstein. Sam is a Higley Music Major who has been studying the saxophone under Leo Potts. Mr. Potts tells us that Sam is “an exceptional student and talent” and says that he “enjoyed working with him immensely.” Sam will be taking over as saxophone instructor next year, and we are thrilled to have him stay on at Whitman. Today, he will be performing Joshua Redman’s “Sweet Sorrow.” He will be accompanied by sophomore Ethan Maier.

Musical Interlude
Sweet Sorrow by Joshua Redman
Sam Epstein ’12, saxophone
accompanied by Ethan Maier ‘14

Our final speaker this afternoon is Professor Patrick Frierson, who is a Garrett Fellow in the Department of Philosophy. Before I mention his academic achievements, I’d like to note that Patrick became a father for the third time last month with the birth of his son, Cyrus. In addition to fatherhood, Patrick specializes in (prepare for a long list): the history of modern philosophy, Kant, ethics, and environmental ethics – as well as 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, and the philosophy of science. He recently completed a book titled “What is the Human Being?” And if you visit Patrick’s personal webpage, you’ll find this wonderful quote from Kant: “The greatest concern of the human being is to know how to properly fulfill his station in creation and to rightly understand what one must do in order to be a human being.” That struck me as a fitting quotation for today’s reflections – and I’m hoping we might gain some insights on the human condition during his deliberation of the question: “What’s so ‘liberal’ about the liberal arts and sciences?” Please welcome Professor Frierson.

What’s so ‘liberal’ about liberal arts and sciences?
Patrick R. Frierson, Faculty Speaker

Let’s thank all of our featured speakers and musicians again. What a wonderful way to open graduation weekend. Let me extend our communal congratulations to the class of 2012 – and also a warm welcome to your friends and family who are here to celebrate with you.

I hope to see you all over at the Young Ballroom in a few minutes for our Commencement speaker Eric Scholsser’s book discussion and signing. And I am particularly looking forward to seeing all of you tomorrow morning at the Commencement ceremony. Again, congratulations.