Baccalaureate Celebration FAQs

What is Baccalaureate?

There is a lot of confusion about what Senior Baccalaureate is. Unlike the massive commencement exercises held in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Baccalaureate ceremony offers a smaller, more intimate opportunity for the graduating class and their families to pause, reflect on this rite of passage, and celebrate the graduates’ achievements and perseverance. At the Baccalaureate, you can expect to hear the voices of seniors through a series of original performances including dance, poetry, song, reflective readings, and other artistic forms of expression. The ceremony often includes a faculty speaker. Seniors enjoy this moment to reflect on their Lewis & Clark experience surrounded by their loved ones.

Is the Baccalaureate a religious service?

Not in its present form at L&C. The Baccalaureate is said to have originated in the 15th century at Oxford College, where each student was required to deliver a sermon in Latin at their graduation. The ceremony has changed over time and many institutions nowadays have adapted this tradition to their own communities and values. It is now most commonly non-religious but holds its traditional purpose of holding this sacred moment.

Why do we continue the Baccalaureate tradition?

Today, in recognition of our pluralistic society and the religious, secular, and spiritual diversity represented at Lewis & Clark, our Baccalaureate has evolved into a sacred celebration to welcome the entire graduating class and their families. The event is crafted by a group of seniors in a way that feels most meaningful to them.

We believe that shared rituals like this are crucial to nurturing the kind of beloved community we hope to sustain at L&C. It’s one among many equally exciting opportunities to celebrate this big moment, but offers a quieter, more creative and intimate opportunity to pause and absorb the moment.

When is Baccalaureate?

Baccalaureate occurs the Friday before Commencement, usually at 1pm, and typically lasts an hour. With loved ones in town for graduation, Friday afternoon Baccalaureate is at a perfect time to bring the family to campus for photos, community, and other celebratory receptions.

In 2023 the Baccalaureate Celebration will be held on Friday, May 5th. More details here.

Where is Baccalaureate held?

The Baccalaureate Celebration has traditionally been held in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel.  A reception will follow in Gregg Pavilion and out on the bridge, weather-permitting.

Who plans Baccalaureate?

Baccalaureate is a celebration designed by a group of dedicated seniors, supported by the Office of Spiritual Life. This planning committee works together to create the ceremony the seniors find most meaningful. These seniors begin meeting in January to envision their class’s ceremony and to gather peers to perform at this wonderful event.

This year’s planning team is supported by Clara Daikh, Program Manager for Spiritual Life. Students interested in shaping this annual ritual, choosing speakers, and recruiting senior musical or artistic offerings are welcome to join the team. Contact Clara if interested:

What is the history of the Baccalaureate?

The odd name, baccalaureate, comes from the early years of higher education when the bachelor’s degree was called “the baccalaureate.” It is believed that, during the 15th century, Oxford University established a tradition of sending their graduates off through a (very) long service that included sermons offered in Latin. When this tradition was carried to the United States the ceremony was changed and the distinctly religious aspects of the ceremony were encompassed in a service before Commencement. That service came to be called “Baccalaureate.” The word began as baccalaureus , (bachelor), and was altered to bacca lauri , (laurel berry) to mirror the bay tree leaves that were woven into crowns to be placed on the heads of scholars.


Please reach out to Hilary Martin Himan, Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life. She can be reached at or 503-768-7082.