Hundreds of soaked seniors and their parents filed into Memorial church yesterday afternoon for the University's oldest non-secular tradition, the baccalaureate service.
Before the service, a throng of proud parents jostled one another on the steps of the church, brandishing cameras and umbrellas and waving to their children. The seniors formed a lengthy processional to march into the aisles, their mortarboards shielding them from the downpour.
Inside, graduates raised their voices in song, bowed their heads in prayer and listened to speeches for an hour. Many parents filmed the ceremony from the balcony, where some sat in the aisles or stood because of lack of space.
Other parents sat in folding chairs under an awning outside the church, watching the rain and listening to the service via a closed circuit audio system.
Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson delivered an address exhorting seniors to "be the wellspring from which important social progress can flow in the future."
"May you find a winning combination of rationality and intuition that will converge as wisdom," Wilson said. "We ask that you be good stewards of your heritage and our collective future."
Wilson also outlined the progress made during outgoing President Derek C. Bok's 20-year tenure and commented on "the next adventurous stage in the Radcliffe half of the Harvard-Radcliffe partnership."
"Radcliffe's continuing and compelling mission will be to advance society by advancing women," she said.
Bok devoted his address to the difficulty of working in public service or education during the current fiscal crunch.
Bok told graduates and parents that "a lot has been changing in America over the last few decades" in terms of the economic feasibility of public sector employment. He said that the oft-heard message that college graduates should devote themselves to advancing humanitarian goals "runs the risk of becoming hypocritical."
"High salaries are set by private institutions, while low salaries are set by the public," Bok said.
Sitting alone in the front row of the balcony, president-designate Neil L. Rudenstine was the first to rise to give Bok a standing ovation.