by Lauren Eller
The senior class has spoken. Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies Royal Rhodes will be the Class of 2015’s speaker for its Baccalaureate ceremony.
The dean’s office contacted Rhodes and asked whether or not he would accept. “And I was totally delighted to. I think even before she was finished asking I was saying ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” he said. Rhodes last served as the Baccalaureate speaker in 2006.
Rhodes explained the significance of the Baccalaureate ceremony for colleges such as Kenyon, saying, “In the modern American college and university system, Baccalaureate has become much more an opportunity to reflect on what is the mission and purpose of liberal arts education. … Every student will receive the Baccalaureate degree at Kenyon, and they’ll do it in Latin to remind people of the origins of the degree.” A Baccalaureate degree is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
He added that the ceremony is a time for looking back as well as looking forward. “[It’s] a time for graduating students, family, faculty and friends to reflect on what’s happened in the four years that they’ve been here and [give] them some sort of encouragement and morale boost about the years ahead,” he said. “Because I think the important thing at Kenyon is that what we’re about is not just education for four years, but lifelong learning. How are you going to take the insights about yourself and the world forward, and use those to help others?”
Maddy Jacobs ’15, president of the senior class, explained that predominantly the Senior Class Council nominated professors to the ballot, which was followed by two polls. “It was a multi-step process and Royal Rhodes was the frontrunner in all of them,” she said. “And it’s such an honor and he’s such a fantastic professor.”
“It’s always meaningful to try to address what you think are important aspects of life for students that go beyond merely the accumulation of knowledge,” Rhodes said, “and it helps the speaker also reflect on ‘What are we doing together? What is the meaning and purpose of education? What’s the difference between mere knowledge or technology and real wisdom?’