About the Service
The Baccalaureate Service seems to have originated in the early 15th century at Oxford University in England. Each graduate was obliged to deliver an oration or sermon, in Latin, to demonstrate his worthiness to receive the degree of bachelor, signified by crowning him with laurels. This service is what we now call commencement.
In America, at religious colleges (like Dartmouth was at its founding and early years), the graduation ceremony included a church service, so that new graduates would understand both the seriousness of their new responsibilities and the true Source of all their achievements.
Today's service has evolved greatly since the days of Eleazar Wheelock. It is now a multi-faith, multicultural service in which we celebrate what we hold in common while also recognizing each tradition's beautiful particularities. It is a time of celebration and worship when we pause, as a college, to reflect and express gratitude and joy for our graduates.