GPS Holds Inaugural Baccalaureate Ceremony

Class of 2023 families gather at Patten Chapel for nondenominational service
On Thursday, May 11, members of the Class of 2023 processed into Patten Chapel on UTC’s campus for a baccalaureate ceremony—the first at GPS. This service, which featured student and faculty speakers, invited friends and family to celebrate our seniors during one of several events held this week in their honor—the senior dinner the night before, Class Day today, and Commencement tomorrow.

Prior to the evening, seniors voted for the student and faculty speakers they wanted to hear from during the event. Andy Arick, English teacher and sponsor of Spectrum, the school’s newspaper, was chosen to offer the invocation following the processional. He prayed for wisdom and continued growth for the class and concluded by saying, “As this class looks at the world that awaits them beyond GPS, we pray that you enable them to see one full of opportunity. While others may look out and see a world full of division, greed, and fear, let these students see opportunities for finding unity, for making sacrifices with their gifts, and for finding hope where others can only see despair. Give them the bravery to pursue truth. Finally, no matter what these young women go on to accomplish in this life, let them rest in the assurance that their ultimate worth will never be derived from what they do or do not achieve.”

Head of School Megan Cover spoke next, welcoming attendees to the service. She said, “As a class, you chose the theme for the year ‘Joy in the Journey,’ which represents each of your paths, not only in where you want to go but how you choose to get there.” She told them she was reminded of the charge each day when she saw the quotes they selected to adorn the lamp posts all year long. She concluded saying, “We are blessed to have been a part of your GPS journey and our hope is that we’ve led you well. We’ve laughed with you, learned from you, marveled at your intellect, and admired your kindness. May you leave here tonight with the knowledge that we are better for having you in our lives and that we want only the best for you as you take your next steps.” 

Following Cover’s opening remarks, senior Caroline Clark, who served as president of both Student Council and Christian Forum, offered a reading from Proverbs, and senior members of GPS Singers performed “For Good” from Wicked. 

Representing Interfaith Forum, Ellie Odle offered a reading from “On Self-Knowledge” by Khalil Gibran next, followed by an instrumental performance from the Tango String Quartet of “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Plaf.

Upper School Dean of Students Erin Sizemore, selected by the senior class, spoke next, offering the Baccalaureate Address. She said, “To the soon-to-be-graduating Class of 2023, I offer my heartfelt congratulations. You have worked tirelessly to reach this moment, and your hard work has paid off. You have shown that you are not only intelligent, but also determined, resilient, and compassionate. You have inspired us with your dedication to your studies, your co-curricular activities, your service and leadership. As we gather here today to celebrate your amazing achievements, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and joy, and I am honored to stand here as your speaker.”

She continued by acknowledging the opportunity to attend an all-girls school is not to be taken for granted. “In a world where inequality still exists, where women's voices are often silenced, and where girls are told they cannot achieve their dreams—and some are even denied the right to an education—our school stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment. You have attended a school that not only values your intelligence and hard work, but also honors the fact that you are a girl and the unique perspectives that come with it.”

She continued, “As you prepare to embark on the next phase of your journey, remember the importance of being a woman in today's society. You are part of a generation of young women who have shattered glass ceilings and broken barriers. You are proof that girls can do anything they set their minds to. You are the leaders of tomorrow, and I have no doubt that you will make a difference in the world. You have certainly made a difference in mine.”

Sizemore concluded by encouraging the girls to embrace challenges, be confident, stay connected to their roots, and never let anyone tell them their dreams are too big. “As you move forward, know that you are not alone. You have a community of strong, intelligent, and powerful women behind you. You have the support of your families, your friends, and your teachers. And you have the power of your own voice and your own convictions.”

To close the ceremony, the crowd sang the GPS “Alma Mater” before Head of Upper School Beth Creswell Wilson ’96 offered the benediction.

Photos available on SmugMug.