Baccalaureate Service Addresses

Do you want to write a Baccalaureate or Graduation Speech for submission?  Details below:

Baccalaureate takes place Saturday before Commencement. The service is at 8:00pm in Stetson Chapel and features a series of thoughtful, funny, and meaningful reflections on the spiritual and emotional impact of one’s time at K. 

Commencement is, of course, the capstone event of graduation week.  Being selected to speak as a representative of the senior class is a very high honor.

Each student who wishes to be considered for the honor of giving one of the senior addresses must submit the speech for review in the form of an essay to the review committee.  Students may submit their speech for consideration for one of/or both Baccalaureate and Commencement.  Please note the following:

  • Please submit your speech with your ID number and your name at the top of the first page.
  • Indicate at the top of the paper to which speech or speeches (Commencement and/or Baccalaureate) you are submitting.
  • Each speech is to be no longer than 3-5 minutes in length (usually no longer than two pages typed and double spaced).
  • Submit the speech to Kelly Killen Ross [Kelly.KillenRoss] by April 5, 2024 (Friday of 1st week Spring) no later than 5pm.

If you have questions, please contact .

Sample Commencement Address 2017

Written by Mireya Guzmán-Ortíz

Imagine, it’s September 2013 and I’m sitting at the kitchen table, convincing my parents that four years in Michigan is not that long. Que si, it’s far from Oregon, it’s far from home, but there’s a home here too, and I’ll return, in one way or another.

After all I was leaving because, I insisted, “me voy a graduar”.

So I stepped on this campus, mom at my side and I saw a place that was wonderful, green, hot, sticky, bright. And hurtful. I saw that it was a place full of knowledge and books but maybe not so much knowledges or books for me. A place where only a few faces looked like me, and only a few places wanted me. And, still, I found, and built, places that love me back as much as I love them. I met people who love me back as much as I love them. And over my last four years here, I’ve been striving to be the light and see the light, and also the dark. For light means not always good, and darkness does not mean bad.

I speak of light with love, and also think of the different uses of light. We’re accustomed to light being good, meaning that dark is scary, it’s bad. But that is too simple. Light in many forms can hurt us, it can burn us, it can kill us and be torturous. On our bodies, the lighter the skin does not mean the more beautiful or more valuable. Darkness can be power, can be refuge. Darkness is needed. Sometimes places can be too bright.

So,  Lux Esto. Be Light. Let there be light.

Be warm, be gentle, let there be warmth, and gentleness. And acknowledge light, this lux esto, can also hurt. My time here was hard, academically, mentally, and at times, my soul hurt. Pero, todavia I went to class, I went to work, because I had told my parents “me voy a graduar.” And do it with pride. And I do graduate with pride because in this small school, we have done so much. So much that maybe looks like it’s contained to 1200 Academy street, but it’s work that permeates our ways of living that expand across the world.

Today, just on this campus, we have an Intercultural Center that supports and provides a home for often marginalized students, and a director of intercultural student life who makes sure this work does not stay in room 110 Hicks. We have a Critical Ethnic Studies major that invites critical thought and action and engagement across departments and disciplines. We have a building dedicated to social justice leadership, where students, staff, faculty, and communities can learn and hone their skills in various ways to create a world that is socially just for all of us.

And all these spaces, spaces that have shaped who I am, get their life from students, from students like me, students likes us.

As a campus, we’ve grappled with darkness and light, in our own individual ways and seen that that sometimes more light is not what we need, but a different kind of light, or even the absence of it.

We have been witness to so much. New presidencies, in this institution and nationally. To new offices, new majors, and buildings on campus. We’ve witnessed growing ideas. The strengthening of movements like Black Lives Matter, the birth of new names and new pronouns for ourselves, we’ve seen new words in the dictionary.

New friendships and relationships have been born, scholars, thinkers, family, and communities have been created and nurtured.

To all these places, to all these people, we need to bring our light and dark, let there be light and dark, and acknowledge the light and dark already present.

So on this day, nos estamos graduando en luz y oscuridad.

Sample Commencement Address 2013

written by Regina Pell

          Kalamazoo College was the only university to which I applied in high school. After my first visit, I knew that this was where I wanted to be, and I could not have picked a better place to spend four years of my life. The reason Kalamazoo appealed to so many of us is that the K experience is different for everyone. We have shared many things, but we have also each been able tailor our time here to suit our needs, interests, and aspirations.  Many people study abroad, but some don’t. Many people find internships, but some didn’t. Everyone does a SIP, but in our year we’ve had people do everything from studying the effects of mutations on a cancer enzyme, to writing about European Union defense policy, to knitting an entire tiny house. Like, the walls and the furniture and everything. Through this all, I have watched my peers learn about themselves and the world along with me. What we have gotten from K has been more than just an education. In four years we have changed from adolescents to adults.

            Now the question is, what we will do in our adult lives, and how will we use our time here at K as a foundation for that?  Despite our parent’s fears, there are some ways college has prepared us to make our way in the so-called “real world.” Obviously, we have each gotten a fantastic education with depth and breadth. We have all learned to think and communicate clearly, a skill that is absolutely necessary in a world steadily moving away from reliance on face to face conversation. And, judging by the time I’ve spent on reddit, a skill many people are sorely lacking. We have learned to think about things from a global perspective, which will help us navigate in a time when national borders are no longer necessarily barriers. And, even though it might not seem like it if you heard us complaining to each other in Biggby, we have learned to prioritize, and to balance our lives.  Most importantly, we have become a part of a community that will stay with us well beyond graduation – whether we like it or not. By participating in service learning, work/study, athletics, and student organizations, we have all had the opportunity to foster relationships with peers, mentors, and friends that will last for the rest of our lives.

            I look around me, and I see 345 amazing people, who are prepared to go out into the world and do awesome things. At this moment we are all excited. Looking back from the day we arrived on campus to now, we have each completed a purposefully challenging process, and this moment is our reward. Many of us right now are feeling the same mix of excitement and apprehension that we felt that very first day. We should take the time to congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come. Our accomplishments are impressive. There probably aren’t a lot of people in the world who have knit a house. But we also need to take this time to look forward. Today begins, as the cliche goes, the first day of the rest of our lives. Whether you know what you’re next step will be, or, if, like me, you’re still unsure what the next stage of your life will look like, harness the feeling that you have right now. No, not the boredom that you feel while I’m speaking, but the excitement and energy that you have about finally being done. Take that, and keep it. Apply it to the rest of your lives. Whatever your goals are, whatever it is that you dream of doing, go out and do it with that same energy. At this moment, each of us has been set up for success. I have spent the last four years with you all, and although I may not know what success looks likes for you, there is no doubt in my mind that you will achieve it. Kalamazoo College class of 2013, I challenge you to go forth and do you.

Sample Baccalaureate Address 2021

written by Audrey Honig

Three Lessons from Microsoft Teams

When I imagine Kalamazoo College during our first two years here, the big hill on the quad is centered in my mind. I sometimes imagine the hill covered in snow and quiet. Other times it’s sunny and filled with noise. I think, too, of the people we became while walking on that hill. There, we learned the importance of frequent cardio, how to wave hello to everyone — even people you’ve only met once — and how to fall in love while walking between dorm rooms. I’m thankful for the hill, for the ground at Kalamazoo College. We brought light to one another on the hill, and the hill brought light to us. But when I think of the second half of our college experience, many of us didn’t spend much time in this place, on the hill in my imagination. We were scattered across the country, learning on our laptops– mostly on the video platform Microsoft Teams. In an uncertain, and often, dark time, learning to “be light” might seem too challenging a task. But the Class of 2021 did not shy away. We learned lessons on Microsoft Teams that the hill might never have taught us.

First, Microsoft Teams taught us how to speak up. It can be hard to speak in a college classroom, where the fear of being “wrong” can leave us flustered, silenced. This challenge is even greater online. The pauses between comments feel longer. It takes our hands a moment to reach for the unmute button, and it takes our wifi a moment to catch up with our ideas. Without the warmth of other people in the room, it’s easier than ever to choose the other path. The one that tells us to turn off our cameras and lie down in bed, to treat the classroom like a podcast. But we learned how to speak up on Teams, and our voices took many forms. This could mean sending a “thumbs-up” in the chat to show we’re listening, sharing personal stories to a screen of little boxes, or daring to close the other tabs on our screens to listen to an opposing view. I am thankful for the bravery of my classmates for speaking up in this setting. May we always be brave.

Second, Microsoft Teams taught us how to be beginners. Our professors struggled and triumphed with us as we learned how to share our screens and fix our wifi. While we generally think of professors lighting the way for students, this year, it became more common for professors to ask for help in the virtual classroom. These experiences offer a humbling lesson: how to be a total beginner, and even how to fail. Thank you to the faculty and staff who took on beginner status with us while we learned how to learn online.

Finally, there is a setting on Teams called “together mode,” where you can take all the faces on the screen and paste them together with different backgrounds, like a green screen. You can look at everyone “sitting together” in an aquarium, a stadium, or a classroom. It might seem silly, but using “together mode” helped us to create moments of unity, even while we longed for afternoons on the quad. During our first two years here, we learned that being together is about waving at one another across the hill, running up to our friends to shake hands or hug. The pandemic has asked us to see our togetherness differently. We have learned that “togetherness” is a way of thinking, that our actions influence our entire community even if we don’t see them. May we hold on to this sense of responsibility for one another.

I am thankful for the lessons learned on the hill and thankful for the lessons learned on the laptop. As we graduate, I’m confident in the light that the Class of 2021 will share with our communities. Because if we can learn to be light on the screen, we can learn to be light anywhere.

May we be brave. May we be beginners. May we be together.

Sample Baccalaureate Address 2017

Written by Alyse Guenther

As we all walk through these next hours, moments immense with transition, of equal reflection and anticipation, nostalgia and gratitude, worry or excitement, maybe our feet are jittery, or maybe, finally, planted firmly in confidence. Maybe our eyes are brimmed with tears, joyous or sad. For me, it’s a mix of feeling like I’m dreaming, and waking up from a dream to find myself suddenly…here. Whatever different mixes of emotion, I want to reflect upon one quality that unites us all – our light.

Throughout our time here together, we’ve heard K’s mantra Lux Esto. Posted in pamphlets lining tables in Hicks, printed on shirts, written on the front of Mandelle, we’re reminded to Be Light. A motto we carry with us as we pass classmates on the quad under arching oak trees in the fall, bundle by the library fireplaces in the winter, and hear chimes of Stetson’s bells, with smells of blossoming branches outside of Fab early in the spring. Be Light. Be light.

The brilliance of this motto, to me, is its ambiguity. Are these two words asking us how to be or what to be? To be light like those light-hearted laughs we shared during Super Top Secret Funtime, when we met for the first time freshmen year. Our friends who remind us still to revel in the simple joys of life, who lighten our burdens with their radiant and vibrant dispositions. Or light like the bright thinkers with whom we discussed deep subjects in the dorms late into the dark hours of night. They enlightened us with new perspectives, shed light on our old habits and misunderstandings, sparked new desire to be more aware, accepting, awake. Or perhaps like the light in our eyes that flickered with newly discovered passions for painting, micro-biology, circus, psychology, a flame ignited by a love for something we never imagined when we began.

            In truth, we are not just light-like, we are light. Each of us in this community has been a light for one another, beacons of knowledge, gentle guiding sparks of charisma, sharing luminescence, warmth, brilliance, and delight. And now, we embrace our nature to shine, further beyond these walls, to illuminate a world that is ready for our discoveries, our kindness, our fire. We have culminated the strength, intensity, and clarity of vision to share our light in new places. Now, like a projecting prism that divides one light into millions, or 419 to be exact, we’ll shoot off in differing directions, casting our kaleidoscope of colors across wherever we travel.

            As you leave this building, walking through the white double doors, down the steps of Stetson, pause for a moment and look down to your feet. Arcing out from where you stand the bricks form a sun and it casts its rays toward the lower quad. From this day forward, when looking back, let us remember all those who we met, all that we have learned, all that we were, and now are. Let us continue to be light, in every step, in every word, remembering Lux Esto.

Sample Baccalaureate Address 2013

written by Michelle Keohane

      Of all of the quirks of Kalamazoo College, from eccentric students to aggressive squirrels, one is particularly perplexing to me. For a school that prides itself so much on an intimate community, people sure are gone a lot. With over 80% of graduates studying abroad and more participating in study away programs or coming and going for various reasons, it can be difficult to put down roots for more than a short ten-week quarter. Yet somehow, even across class years and continents, we manage. In an ironic way, dealing with absence, whether your own or that of your peers, is a crucial part of belonging to the
Kalamazoo College community.
      That’s not always an easy thing to negotiate. While I was in Chile, a friend studying in London received some bad news about her family in Chicago. I felt totally helpless from thousands of miles away. I didn’t know how I could adequately comfort her over Facebook chat. The best I could think to do was to tell her to imagine points of light all over the map, on six continents, where I and the rest of our friends were holding her family in our thoughts. It’s an image that stayed with me for the rest of my time abroad, and it keeps coming back to me, even when I’m not continents away.
      Since about halfway through sophomore year, this moment, the time when I would have to leave Kalamazoo College and find the next thing on my path, has been both exhilarating and acutely terrifying. When many of us left campus or said goodbye to departing friends as sophomores or juniors, the promise of spending spring or senior year reunited loomed like a beacon through the difficult moments. The scariest thing is to try to imagine that we’re not coming back this time, at least not in the same sense. So what does our community mean moving forward?
      As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, our motto is “Lux Esto,” a Latin phrase meaning “be light.” In Spanish, the informal command “be light” translates to “sé luz,” which has an interesting second meaning: “I know light.” As we separate and pursue new adventures, we must all remember the brightness we have known here: the professors that have pushed us and believed in us, the peers who have expanded our ways of thinking, and the friends with whom we’ve shared DOGLs, late night study sessions, and Saturday brunches. And as we leave Kalamazoo College, we join a network of lights all over the world, alumni and friends scattered in every corner bringing the glow of this community with them. We are a part of them, and we can draw strength from them. We belong to Kalamazoo College even when we are absent from the campus, our peers, and the squirrels, because we know its light. Life after K will undoubtedly have difficult moments, just like there were during our time here. It is important in those moments to keep in mind all of the points of light created by this community of wanderers, to remember the light we must be, and to cherish the light we have known.