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Baccalaureate Speaker: Build Community with Energy, Intelligence, Imagination and Love

Recalling the Scots-Irish Presbyterians who founded Washington and Lee, the University’s baccalaureate speaker asked the Class of 2014 to build community and provide for the common good using “energy, intelligence, imagination and love.”

The Rev. John M. Cleghorn, pastor of Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., noted the four qualities required by his denomination’s ordination service, saying, “Washington and Lee has taught you the first three, and, I hope, along with your parents and friends, plenty of the last — which is love.”

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The more than 400 students, plus family and friends, gathered on the university’s Front Lawn between Washington Hall and Lee Chapel for the service, part of the 227th undergraduate Commencement.

During the service, University President Kenneth P. Ruscio presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, W&L’s highest student honor, to seniors Annelise Madison, a politics major from Roca, Neb., and Alvin Thomas, a chemistry-engineering major and poverty and human capabilities minor from Skokie, Ill. The recipients “excel in high ideals of living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and disinterested service to others.”

A 1984 graduate of Washington and Lee, Cleghorn began his career as a reporter with The Charlotte Observer then rose to senior vice president in an 18-year career with Bank of America, ultimately entering the ministry.

“What path your careers and leadership may take isn’t known,” Cleghorn said. “You never know where a W&L degree will take you …. You never know how one career leads to the next.”

What remains constant, he explained, is using the knowledge and leadership gained from higher education to build community wherever one might live. Quoting Jeremiah, Cleghorn said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you and pray to the Lord on its behalf … for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”