Graduating seniors in the Class of 2024 take in the moment at the Undergraduate Baccalaureate on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

Graduates encouraged to embrace ‘sweetness of doing nothing’ at Baccalaureate

Senior class gift to renovate fire pit dedicated to Nathan Longenecker

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The undergraduate students who graduated last weekend hold a special place in EMU history, said President Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman, because “2024 is no ordinary graduation exercise.”

Officially known as the “COVID Class,” many of the 2024 graduates entered EMU as first-year students in the fall of 2020, having never experienced a high school prom or in-person graduation. They arrived amidst the strictest COVID-19 requirements.

And yet, Huxman said, the Class of 2024 has emerged with heroic resolve through four years of multilayered crises… a global health emergency, economic upheaval and racial reckoning. “A trifecta of turbulence,” she termed it. 

“Here you are, ready to cross the finish line, much more adaptable, much more resilient, much more humble and empathic, and perhaps, most important, much more attuned to the very values this university is built upon,” she told the crowd of soon-to-be graduates, family members, friends, faculty and staff gathered at Lehman Auditorium for the Undergraduate Baccalaureate on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

“Through it all, Class of 2024, you have shown the next generation what it means to shoulder setbacks, come what may, and still be immersed in a rigorous and caring academic and life journey,” Huxman said.

Watch a video recording of the ceremony here.

The baccalaureate service is an opportunity for graduating seniors to pause and reflect as they prepare for the grand celebration, EMU Provost Tynisha Willingham said. Legend has it that the tradition began at Oxford University, England, in the early 1400s, when graduates were required, as part of their closing rite of passage, to preach a sermon in Latin.

“Now, mind you, no one is going to preach, and it will not be in Latin,” she joked.

‘Dolce far niente’

Maria Esther Showalter, instructor of Spanish language and Hispanic studies, delivers the Baccalaureate address.

Selected by the Class of 2024 as its Baccalaureate speaker, Maria Esther Showalter, instructor of Spanish language and Hispanic studies, delivered an address on “finding and sustaining your purpose.”

As part of sustaining that purpose, she explained, it’s important to slow down and take breaks to avoid stress and burnout. Among her tips: create a meaningful morning routine, savor your coffee and tea, stop multitasking, simplify your to-do list, read a book, take a walk, go on a run, write in your journal, let go of the fear of missing out, and say “no” more often.

She said she’s recently discovered the Italian phrase, “dolce far niente,” which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing.” When you’re stressed out, she told the graduating class, try to remember this phrase.

Dolce far niente is a form of art,” Showalter said. “It takes practice. There are no rules. But when you begin to do nothing, keep in mind the opposite of ‘busy’ is not ‘lazy’. The opposite of ‘busy’ is ‘solitude’. The opposite of ‘busy’ is being loving and graceful. The opposite of ‘busy’ is ‘stillness’. All those opposites are essential for your health, happiness and relationships.”

Senior class salutations

Senior class co-presidents Hannah Landis, left, and Megan Miller deliver the senior class salutations

Senior class co-presidents Hannah Landis and Megan Miller delivered the senior class salutations, reflecting on their experiences at EMU. 

“For most of us, the growth experience here has been unparalleled, and the support and care from professors and faculty have shaped us and broadened our horizons,” Miller said.

She echoed EMU’s mission, to prepare students to serve and lead in a global context, and said it’s done just that.

“EMU has equipped us to go into the world and positively impact the lives of those around us,” Miller said. “Our stories are just beginning, and the best years of our lives are yet to come.”

Senior class gift

Lizzy Kirkton, left, senior class business manager, and Julie Weaver, senior class secretary, present the senior class gift.

Lizzy Kirkton, senior class business manager, and Julie Weaver, senior class secretary, presented the senior class gift.

The Class of 2024 raised $485 in funds that will be used to add stone pavers around the fire pit on the EMU hill, creating a more safe and welcoming environment. The class gift is dedicated to Nathan Longenecker, a member of the Class of 2024 who passed away in 2021 after a battle with brain cancer. 

“Words can hardly encompass the entirety of a person, but if we are to try, some words to describe Nathan would be gracious, kind, patient, intelligent, loyal, charismatic and, in the words of Ben Alderfer, ‘irritatingly persuasive,’” Weaver said. “If you were blessed with the opportunity to know Nathan, we know that he impacted your life in a beautiful way.”

To donate to the Nathan Longenecker Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund created in his memory, click here. Gifts to the fund provide need-based scholarships to incoming EMU students.

The closing of a circle

Shannon Dycus, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, hands EMU pins to the graduates.

In many ways, said 2024 class advisor Shannon Dycus, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, the Undergraduate Baccalaureate service is meant to complete a circle that would have begun during the students’ first days on campus. 

In traditional, non-pandemic times, the first-year students would’ve received EMU pins, huddled around the plaza fountain and dropped the pins into it, symbolizing the start of their college journeys. At the end of their senior year, they would have received those pins back to wear at Commencement.

The graduating seniors may have missed out on the first part of the ritual, but on Saturday, they took those pins and held them in their hands for the first time. 

“Tonight, we are not closing a simple circle,” Dycus told the Class of 2024. “It’s got edges and curvy parts on it.”

The ceremony featured organ music from 2024 graduate Luke Haynes, singing from 2024 graduates Maggie Garber McClary and Thaddeus Jackson; a dedication prayer from deans Dr. Daniel Ott, Dr. Tara Kishbaugh and Dr. David Brubaker; scripture readings from class advisors Shannon Dycus and Chad Gusler; a poetry reading from 2024 graduate Belen Hernandez Rosario; and a sending blessing from Brian Martin Burkholder.

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