Baccalaureate, Vigil Ceremony launch week of festivities for CLSC, Alumni Association

The CLSC Class of 2022 processes from the Amp to the Hall of Philosophy for their Vigil Ceremony. The joint program, established in 2021 to honor the previous year’s COVID-19 class, continues this year with Sacred Song at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amp, and the Vigil Ceremony at 8:45 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy. Dylan Townsend/Daily File Photo

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

For almost 150 years, traditions in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle have remained consistent — and this year’s Recognition Week and CLSC graduation is no different; albeit with some more recent additions.

On top of the plethora of Week Six programming, Chautauquans can look forward to a weeklong celebration of literature and everything woven into it.

Recognition Week for the CLSC Class of 2023 and the Alumni Association of the CLSC starts with the Baccalaureate as part of the 10:45 a.m. morning worship service Sunday in the Amphitheater, followed by the Sacred Song Service at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amp, after which the soon-to-be graduates will promenade to the Hall of Philosophy for their Vigil Ceremomy — all of which make up some of the most “enjoyable parts of the Chautauqua experience,” said CLSC Octagon Manager Stephine Hunt. “It’s just amazing to be part of one of the oldest continuous book clubs in America.”

Another part of Hunt’s job is to “shepherd” each year’s graduating class through everything from membership to graduation eligibility and class formation. She also oversees the various committees that aid in Recognition Week prep.

“Sacred Song Service (is) where the class will be recognized,” Hunt said. “When that ends, they march over to the Hall of Philosophy and we have our Vigil — which we’ve had for more than 100 years.”

The CLSC Class of 2023 is named “Champions of the Page,” with Annie Hamill and Denise Sager serving as co-presidents.

In the Hall of Philosophy, the cauldrons are lit with fires all around the perimeter. After the Vigil is a reception for all of the graduates. At 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Ballroom of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, graduates of the various levels of the Guild of Seven Seals have their own celebration for their work moving up the steps in the CLSC. 

“What’s really wonderful is we partner and collaborate with the Alumni Association of the CLSC,” Hunt said. “They help us gather volunteers to help make those final details come together.”

The Vigil Ceremony Sunday evening is presented with the Alumni Association, Hunt said. There’s a cake presentation, Kimball gifts — donations or service projects the classes are trying to accomplish — and a brief reception after at Alumni Hall. 

“This year, we’re working together and I consider us the friends of the CLSC,” said Pat McDonald, president of the Alumni Association of the CLSC. “We’re working together on the Vigil (and) the parade. … We’re working together for really all of it, but technically (the CLSC Class of 2023 isn’t) ours until they graduate.”

A large part of each CLSC graduation is the class banner, and McDonald said for the first time, this year’s banners will be made from vinyl.

“We have just found a place that would make them for a reasonable amount,” McDonald said. “One of our clever volunteers is an engineer, and he’s making us poles out of PVC pipe so that we will be able to march.”

Hunt said she is personally looking forward to Recognition Day on Wednesday, which she described as a “beautiful day of whirlwind pomp and circumstance in all of the best, charming ways” — from a parade of previous CLSC classes from Bestor Plaza to the Hall of Philosophy, the Recognition Day Ceremony for the CLSC Class of 2023, and then the parade back to the Amp in time for the morning lecture.

However this year, Hunt said she “might be more excited” for the Vigil Ceremony ever since the CLSC started partnering with the Department of Religion in 2021 — originally to celebrate the 2020 graduates who couldn’t receive an in-person recognition — and have continued since.

“(The class is) putting together musicians and readings,” Hunt said. “They put together a class poem that they’re going to read. (The event) is only 25 to 30 minutes, but I’m really excited to see how they choose to celebrate themselves.”


The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.