Themes of service and togetherness resounded in the Western Presbyterian Church sanctuary Friday afternoon for the Interfaith Baccalaureate ceremony, a spiritual event that traditionally marks the beginning of Commencement weekend.
Five graduating seniors and the head of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts spoke at the event, each highlighting the importance of supporting one another in both friendship and community assistance. More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including University President Steven Knapp, who introduced keynote speaker Rory Pullens from the Ellington School.
Pullens captivated the audience with a sermon-like speech about not only finding the significance of something in life, but also determining what created that meaning to begin with.
“Sometimes we focus on the net worth of something,” he said. “Yet too often we fail to learn how that worth was realized in the first place.”
Touching and inspiring a person or community, Pullens said, is the most noble calling graduates can find after their time at the University.
“Come Sunday, it will be your opportunity to touch the world in your own special way,” he said.
The University Singers, a mixed choir of GW students, followed Pullens’ speech with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s tune “Come Sunday.”
Graduating seniors Thomas Andrew Bergbauer, Elizabeth Drellich, Sana Ahmed, Matthew Saunders and Clara Shea delivered remarks at the event. Bergbauer represented the Catholic faith, Ahmed represented the Muslim tradition, Shea represented the Protestant faith, and Drellich and Saunders represented Judaism.
Drellich discussed the importance of using her time to do good in the world, both as a student and after graduation.
“I believe that my actions make the world a better place,” Drellich said. “I hope that I and my fellow graduates continue to act on these beliefs.”
Bergbauer struck a tone of community, saying his faith has developed over his four years at GW thanks to the models portrayed around him.
“The ways I’ve grown in my faith over the past four years is simple – I’ve followed the examples around me,” he said.