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Baccalaureate address

• The Baccalaureate address (originally called a sermon) is one of Princeton's oldest traditions. The earliest recorded address was delivered by President Samuel Davies in 1760 to the 11 members of the graduating class. Titled "Religion and Public Spirit," it treated a topic that has been a frequently recurring theme. "Serve your generation," he told his students.

• Davies' address was delivered in the prayer hall of Nassau Hall. In modern times, the baccalaureate has been given in the University Chapel and, as in Davies' day, it takes place on the Sunday preceding Commencement. Since 1972 the address, originally delivered by the president, has been given each year by a different speaker chosen by the president after discussion with class leaders.

• Although a common thread has run through many baccalaureates, sometimes they have reflected specifically the times in which they were given. Among President Harold Dodds' 20 addresses, for example, one, given in 1949 in the early days of the Cold War, considered the question, "Which comes first, the integrity of the individual or the authority of the state?"

• President Robert Goheen, in his last baccalaureate in 1972, told the graduating seniors that their generation, more than most members of his, had an awareness of, "indeed a passionate concern for," contemporary problems. He reminded them that the solution to these problems "requires, more often than not, the combining of humanitarian empathy with much tough-mindedness, much sophisticated knowledge and a long view."

• U.S. Sen. William Frist, a member of Princeton's class of 1974 and a heart and lung transplant surgeon, spoke at the University's Baccalaureate in 1997. He quoted one of his favorite teachers, the late chemistry professor Hubert Alyea: "If you have to choose between doing the ordinary and the unexpected, do the unexpected. It is the unexpected that leads to the fulfilling life."

• The speaker at this year's interfaith worship service at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 30, will be pre-eminent Civil War scholar James McPherson, the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History. Seating in the University Chapel is limited to members of the senior class and faculty procession. Seniors receive two tickets for family and guests who may view the ceremony via simulcast, including on a large screen to be set up outside the chapel.

Sources: "A Princeton Companion" by Alexander Leitch and the Princeton Alumni Weekly.