You are here

Baccalaurete 2024

Click above for the post Baccalaureate News Article

Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 4:00pm
Packer Memorial Church


Rachel Laser

Lehigh University is pleased to announce that Rachel Laser, the President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will deliver the University’s 2024 Baccalaureate Address. Baccalaureate, a major University event during commencement weekend, will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at 4:00 p.m. in Packer Memorial Church. Reservations are not required.  

Rachel Laser is a lawyer and social justice advocate who has centered her professional life on issues of freedom, equality and inclusion in public policy. To read more about Ms. Laser, please go to the FULL RACHEL LASER article.




Led by University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen, the Baccalaureate program includes outstanding choral music and a presentation or “farewell address” by a person of high distinction to graduating seniors.

The original Baccalaureate ceremony dates back to the 14th Century where it was held at Oxford University.

The Baccalaureate service lasts one hour and begins with a musical prelude slightly before 4:00 p.m. Students representing different religious traditions participate in the program.

Past notes of appreciation received from parents, guests, and students indicate that the service has been a meaningful part of the Commencement activities.


*The service is standing room only. In recent years, speakers have been placed on the patio in front of the church because of the crowd. To be assured a seat, please arrive early.







May, 2023

Harold Holzer


Harold Holzer

Baccalaureate speaker Harold Holzer is a leading authority on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. Photo: Contributed



Lincoln expert Harold Holzer, the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, will be Lehigh’s 2023 Baccalaureate speaker. A major university event during Commencement weekend, Baccalaureate will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, in Packer Memorial Church. Reservations are not required.

Harold Holzer is a leading authority on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A journalist by background who served for 23 years as senior vice-president for public affairs at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Holzer is author, co-author or editor of 55 books and more than 600 articles and reviews.

A sought-after lecturer, he has made numerous television and media appearances, including interviews on Bill Moyers Journal, National Geographic Television, and programs sponsored by The History Channel and CNN.  He has appeared over 200 times on C-SPAN.  His most recent book is "The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media—From the Founding Fathers to Fake News," (2020) a balanced account of  presidents and the media that The Washington Post hailed as "a lively, deeply researched story" filled with "colorful detail." He served as historical consultant for the Steven Spielberg film "Lincoln." 

Lloyd Steffen, Lehigh University Chaplain and professor of religious studies, said Holzer will offer this year’s graduates a reminder that today’s social and political turmoil is not new. 

“Mr. Holzer’s deep immersion in the history of American divisions leading up to the Civil War, and then during the war itself, is a tragic history we need to continue to confront and learn from," he said. "Holzer has performed an admirable service by helping us to see that history in depth and detail.” 

Steffen noted, “Many are comparing America’s divisions today with those of the 1850s. The struggles of the mid-19th century were over the future for democratic institutions and the need for leaders who, despite their flaws, can act with courage to advance a moral vision centered on human dignity and equality before the law. Mr. Holzer knows this American story as well as anyone.”

Holzer has received numerous awards for his work, including several honorary degrees and the 2015 Lincoln Prize for "Lincoln and the Power of the Press."  President Clinton appointed him co-chair of the U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and President Bush awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008.

Holzer served as press secretary to Congresswoman Bella Abzug early in his career and was public affairs director for the PBS flagship station WNET. In his current position at Roosevelt House, he oversees academic programs for Hunter College undergraduates in public policy and human rights and hosts public programs on history and current events.



May, 2022

Thomas P. Kasulis



Lehigh University is pleased to announce that the 2022 Baccalaureate Speaker will be Professor Thomas P. Kasulis, an internationally renowned philosophy and religion scholar widely regarded as having opened up the field of Japanese philosophy to the English-speaking world. Professor emeritus of Comparative Studies and University Distinguished Scholar at the Ohio State University, Professor Kasulis has taught and lectured around the world, having established himself as a foremost interpreter of Japanese thought and culture. A clear and creative thinker known for “wearing his erudition lightly,” as one critic put it, and for his entertaining style of presentation, Professor Kasulis will address graduating seniors and their families at the Baccalaureate service to be held on May 22 at 4:00 PM in Packer Memorial Church.

Professor Kasulis’ first book, Zen Action/Zen Person, a philosophical bestseller, was described in the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most clear and perceptive accounts of Zen available,” an effort in understanding Zen that was “thoroughly new.” His Gilbert Ryle lectures, published as Intimacy or Integrity, argued that some cultures emphasize matters in the foreground that others place in the background.  From his distinction between intimacy and integrity cultures, he undermined the idea that cultural differences express different worlds that cannot possibly understand one another. Written with co-authors James Heisig and John Maraldo, his book, Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook, has been described as ”the gold standard for comprehensive treatment of all matters of Japanese philosophy,” and about his magnum opus, published in 2018, Engaging Japanese Philosophy, it has been written that the book “is ultimately as much a meditation on philosophy’s global future as it is a reflection on philosophy’s Japanese past – – an “indispensable guide” with Kasulis not only an “insightful philosopher” but “an excellent storyteller.”

With a deep knowledge of Japanese traditions described as “unparalleled,” Kasulis has received accolades for his “unique” ability to present and interpret the subtlety of concepts embedded in Japanese culture to a broader audience, with one colleague adding that Kasulis “approaches being a living legend in the field internationally .”

Lloyd Steffen, University chaplain and professor of Religion Studies, commented, ”We are excited to have Professor Kasulis join us as our 2022 baccalaureate speaker.  Professor Kasulis’s ability to draw on the wisdom of both Western and Asian traditions promises to make his address before our graduating students a memorable event not only in the commencement weekend festivities but in their Lehigh careers.” 

Professor Kasulis has been a leading figure in the American Academy Religion and has served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion and of the Society for Asian Comparative Philosophy. He has served on the board of The Eastern Buddhist and The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. His works have been translated into eight languages.  He received his BA, MPhil and PhD from Yale and an MA from the University of Hawaii.  At Ohio State, he has served as Chair of the Department of Comparative Studies, Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and founding Director of The Ohio State University Humanities Institute.


May 23,2021

E.J. Dionne


Virtual Baccalaureate

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is an internationally-recognized journalist, political commentator, thought-leader, and professor. His career began in 1975 when he went to work for the New York Times covering state, local, and national politics and also serving as a foreign correspondent. He reported from more than two dozen countries, including extended periods in Paris, Rome, and Beirut. He joined the Washington Post in 1990 as a political reporter and has been writing a twice-weekly column for the Post since 1993. It is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group and appears in more than 250 newspapers. Dionne is a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University, where he teaches in the McCourt School of Public Policy and the Government Department. Dionne is a regular political analyst for MSNBC and NPR’s All Things Considered. He is the author of seven books, most recently the New York Times bestseller One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet Deported, co-authored with Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann.



Cancelled due to COVID19


Dr. Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University
Lehigh News Article

Gary Dorrien and Lloyd Steffen 
Baccalaureate Service Address given by Dr. Gary Dorrien 
Audio address available upon request.


Dr. Stephen Prothero, C. Allyn and Elizabeth V. Russell Professor of Religion at Boston University
Lehigh News Article

Lloyd Steffen, Walead Mosaad, and Stephen Prothero 
Baccalaureate Service Address given by Dr. Stephen Prothero 
Recorded at Packer Memorial Church, May 20, 2018: AUDIO LINK


Dr. John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion, Georgetown University
Lehigh News Article

Lloyd Steffen, John Esposito, and Danielle Stillman 
Baccalaureate Service Address given by Dr. John L. Espositio 
Recorded at Packer Memorial Church, May 21, 2017: AUDIO LINK.


Dr. Charles Johnson, author and professor emeritus at the University of Washington
Lehigh News Article

Lloyd Steffen, Charles R. Johnson and Danielle Stillman 
Baccalaureate Service Address given by Dr. Charles R. Johnson 
Recorded at Packer Memorial Church, May 22, 2016: AUDIO LINK.  



Dr. Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University
Lehigh News Article

Eric Foner and Lloyd Steffen 
Baccalaureate Service Address given by Dr. Eric Foner 
Recorded at Packer Memorial Church, May 17, 2015: AUDIO LINK.  


Professor Arvind Sharma, McGill University
Lehigh News Article

Arvind Sharma, Lloyd Steffen and Danielle Stillman


James Carroll, author, journalist, historian
Lehigh News Article

James Carroll and Lloyd Steffen
James Carroll and Lloyd Steffen


Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Lehigh News Article

Jody Williams and Lloyd Steffen


Professor Rosemary Radford Ruether, Claremont University
Lehigh News Article


Dr. Daniel Callahan, Hastings Center and Yale University
Lehigh News Article


Professor Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago
Lehigh News Article


Tenzin Robert Thurman, Columbia University
Lehigh News Article


Professor Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School


Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Diocese of Newark (ret.)


Dean William A. Graham, Harvard Divinity School


Professor Mark Jeurgensmeyer, U California, Santa Barbara


Professor Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago


Professor Diana Eck, Harvard University


Dr. Rebecca Chopp, Provost, Emory University


Professor Tu Wei Ming, Harvard University


Rev. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, Chaplain, U.S. Senate


Professor David Tracy, University of Chicago


Professor Peter Paris, Princeton Theological Seminary


Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University


Rev. Will Willimon, University Chaplain, Duke University


Professor Phyllis Trible, Union Theological Seminary


Dean Robert C. Neville, Boston University


Professor Cornel West, Princeton University


Rev. James Forbes, Riverside Church, New York, NY