Seniors Celebrate In Church Ceremony

And you thought Neil L. Rudenstine was tired. At yesterday's Baccalaureate Service the President joked spiritedly with members of the class of 1995.

At the Memorial Church service, Rudenstine told the class, with which he shared his first-year on campus in 1991, that he was happy to see them graduate and pleased that he was staying on rather than "graduating" with them.

"My attendance has been appalling this year," he said in reference to his three-month leave of absence due to fatigue.

Assuring members of the class of 1995 that they were "the cream in our coffee, the mint in our julep and the soup of our jour," Rudenstine reminisced about shared experiences during the hour-long service for the graduating seniors.

The Church was filled to capacity with the soon-to-be graduates, all decked out in their caps and gowns.

Several hundred others--including friends and relatives of the class members, other undergraduates and returning alumni--gathered outside the church in Tercentenary Theatre to hear the service broadcast on speakers.

The Reverend Peter J. Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals and minister in the Memorial Church, reminded the audience in his salutation, "this solemn occasion that brings us together is one almost as old as Harvard College itself."

The Baccalaureate Service, which is meant togive a religious closure to the students' collegecareers, has been celebrated as part of Harvard'sCommencement exercises since 1642.

Only in recent years, however, has it seen asdiverse a representation of faiths and ideas aswere present yesterday.

Members of the class of '95 read selectionsfrom the Holy Koran, the Hindu Scriptures, theHebrew Bible and the New Testament in Arabic,Sanskrit, Hebrew and English. Non-English readingswere repeated in English translation.

Each reader urged class members to trust theirGod and believe in the power of love.

"In the name of God the beneficial...certainlyyour efforts and needs are diverse," MohammedAsmal '95 chanted from the Holy Koran in Arabic.

"May Shiva guide you from darkness to thewisdom of light," Sarthak Das '95 read in Sanskritfrom the Hindu Scriptures.

"Then you will walk on your way securely andyour foot will not stumble," Elie G. Kaunfer '95,a Crimson editor, said in Hebrew from the HebrewBible.

"Faith, hope and love abide--these three. Andthe greatest of these is love," said First ClassMarshal Elena T. Huang '95, reading in Englishfrom the New Testament.

Following the readings, President of RadcliffeCollege Linda S. Wilson and Rudenstine addressedthe class.

Wilson hailed the day as one of "mixedfeelings" and as "the day when college presidentsare supposed to be founts of wisdom and shouldcome forth with noble truths."

Warning the group that she could provide nosuch guidance, Wilson said she wanted to give adifferent kind of message.

Wilson emphasized the need for members of theclass of '95 to respect their fellow human beings.

Citing race, gender and socioeconomicdifferences which threaten to divide Americansociety, Wilson said that "today there is anurgent need to earn and give respect over theboundaries of our differences."

"Without respect, fears can consume us," shesaid.

Wilson closed her speech by reminding the classthat they "have much to give, but will have to becreative and a bit humble in the way [they]share."

Rudenstine's address was decidedly morelighthearted. He joked about the nature of theceremonies that fill Commencement Week.

"If any group of oddly dressed people weregathered together soaring towards a colossalanticlimax, we are they," Rudenstine said.

On a more serious note, he reminded thesoon-to-be graduates that the future is morecomplex than they might realize.

"Your challenge is to gain more and moreself-awareness and self-perception to aid you inthe decisions you make," he said.

Rudenstine closed with a word of advice for thegraduating class. "I urge you all to beinteresting," he said.

"There are far worse things in life than to bedull, but it is just more interesting to beinteresting, not just for you, but for otherpeople."

His final words, advising students to "followyour heart as well as your head," were greetedwith thunderous cheers and applause from bothinside and outside the church.

The service ended with 12 tolls of the MemorialChurch bell in memory of those in the class of '95who did not live to see their graduation.

A special prayer was offered for Dominic J.Armijo '95, a Kirkland House resident whocommitted suicide last January