Yesterday the Old Yard became an undulating sea of mortar board caps as seniors funneled into Memorial Church for this year's Baccalaureate service.
About 1,600 seniors tried their best to walk in double lines while marching to the church which, with its 1,200 seat capacity, was quickly filled. Along the way, the soon-to-be graduates doffed their caps to the statue of John Harvard.
Parents and friends lined the paths before taking their seats outside the church in Tercentenary Theatre, where they listened to the service over loudspeakers.
Inside, seniors packed the pews. Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine, Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Minister in Memorial Church Rev. Peter J. Gomes presided over the ceremony, seated in the front of the sanctuary.
"On behalf of your colleges," Gomes proclaimed, "I welcome you to the Memorial Church."
Gomes said the Baccalaureate service was an occasion "rich in tradition but also rich in symbolism."
Students read from the holy books of several religious traditions, chanting in foreign languages for three of them. Gomes and the two presidents led the congregation in the singing of hymns, with Rudenstine singing the final hymn without a lyrics sheet.
Wilson delivered her address first, choosing to speak to the class about "entropy."
The tendency towards chaos dominates people's lives, Wilson said, but individuals crave organization. Harvard students' accomplishments demonstrated their ability to plan and overcome entropy, she said.
"I am in awe of your accomplishments and stamina," Wilson said.
Wilson also expounded upon "the law of unintended consequences" and discussed how chaos and hard work can come together to create good.
Wilson said she believes the information age will entail many unforeseen consequences. She cited the problem with computers which will have trouble recognizing dates in the year 2000 as a challenge which must be met.
"If technological solutions fall short, will our community ties be strong enough?" Wilson asked. "Where will you be on Dec. 31, 1999? I hope on the ground and not in an airplane."
Following her question, the audience began to murmur.
Wilson closed with remarks about the colleges that the graduating seniors would be leaving behind.
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