Reimagined Senior Baccalaureate ceremony to celebrate community, diversity Under the Oaks

To be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, the event will bring together members of the Class of 2022 in the iconic location where most began their Elon journeys four years ago.

On Tuesday, May 17, members of Elon’s Class of 2022 will gather Under the Oaks for a special reimagining of the baccalaureate ceremony that’s designed to bring together Elon traditions in a new celebration of community, light and achievement.

Scheduled near the beginning of Commencement Week, the ceremony, which will take the place of baccalaureate, will provide an opportunity for reflection, with Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies L.D. Russell delivering an address to the graduating class and President Connie Ledoux Book offering remarks on the numen lumen — signifying intellectual and spiritual light — that students will now take into the world. The gathering in this iconic Elon location will include a candlelight ceremony and will conclude with Elon alumni distributing oak saplings to students, who in a matter of days will join them as Elon graduates.

Each new Elon student received an acorn, a symbol of the promise of an Elon education, at the conclusion of the ceremony.

This event will bring the Class of 2022 back together Under the Oaks, where most began their Elon journey together at New Student Convocation in August 2018, for an evening of reflection and community.

“This will be a place for seniors to be able to come together with their friends and reflect together on their Elon journey,” said Rev. Kirstin Boswell, university chaplain and dean of multifaith engagement. “Baccalaureate is being reimagined this year to be a space of pure celebration of the diversity within our graduating class.”

Nearly four years ago, these students gathered Under the Oaks for New Student Convocation during their first days on campus. They left that ceremony with an acorn, marking the beginning of their Elon education. The new ceremony will be a bookend to their time as students at Elon, with these seniors coming together to receive their saplings in the same place they were handed their acorns years ago.

“It’s a recognition and celebration of my time here at Elon,” said Pierce Johnson ’22, who was involved in the planning as a member of the university’s Traditions Council. “Being able to share in that celebration with my classmates and friends is meaningful and I cherish that. Receiving our saplings in the same place we received our acorns, symbolically ending our on-campus Elon journey where it began, is important for me.”

The event will take place just before dusk and will close with a candlelight ceremony, underscoring the theme of light that runs through the event and through an Elon education. Elon’s motto is “numen lumen,” meaning “spiritual light” and “intellectual light.”

“Light is one of the themes that has been woven into the student experience here at Elon,” Boswell said. “For example, during the Festival of Lights and Luminaries in December, we emphasized the important space that the imagery of light occupies within many world traditions. We are continuing with that theme, and in the final moments of Baccalaureate, will light candles as a way to share in what we hope will become a meaningful tradition.”

An Elon tradition has been to present each graduating senior with an oak sapling to signify their growth during their time at the university.

The ceremony is designed to be a space of reflection and transition for the seniors, who will celebrate their achievements with their families during other events later in the week. With so much packed into Commencement Week and students pulled in different directions, this new ceremony is a way for members of the graduating class to enjoy their journey with those who were with them the entire way.

As student body president, Jack Corby ’22 offered remarks to members of the Class of 2025 during their New Student Convocation last August. He saw the elation and appreciation on the faces of the students as they received their acorns, leading him to recall his own New Student Convocation and his Elon journey. He said receiving his sapling in that same special place, underneath the oak trees that tower the campus he’s called home for four years, will be meaningful.

“I think as incoming students recognize that the classes ahead of them will receive a sapling in the same place that they got their acorn, it’ll start to be a more holistic part of our traditions,” Corby said. “It will symbolize coming into Elon in one place and coming out in the same place, and that chance for reflection together in the physical space.”

Seniors will gather at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, followed by the Senior Celebration on Wednesday, May 18 in Rhodes Stadium. Both events are for members of the graduating class. Families are welcome to join their students at Commencement Week events on Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20. For more information and a full schedule of Commencement Week events, visit