Tradition on parade as Class of 2015 celebrates its CLSC Recognition Day

Recognition Day is a scene out of time. White-clad graduates march, music plays, flower petals drift through the air. Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent are even there.

The event serves as the culmination of approximately four years of reading for the Class of 2015 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle graduates.

This year’s graduating body, Chautauqua’s 134th, has 123 members.

Jeff Miller, CLSC activities coordinator, said that the event’s more traditional aspects serve as a reminder of the past, while the CLSC’s message is one that is timeless.

“I think it’s one of those continuums — it pushes us to think about the past and the future,” Miller said.

Recognition Day features two parades: the parade of past graduates, which marches through Bestor Plaza and Clark Brick Walk, and the graduating class parade, which marches from the Hall of Christ to the Hall of Philosophy.

At approximately 9 a.m. today, Chautauquans potraying Miller and Vincent will greet the Class of 2015, and the Golden Gate will be opened with the giant key emblazoned with the word READ.

“It used to be more serious, but people just like the pomp and circumstance, I think,” said Peg Snyder, CLSC Veranda manager. “One person said a few years ago it was the best thing they’ve experienced since third grade.”

Recognition Day was preceded by the CLSC Vigil at 9:15 p.m. Sunday. The graduating class chooses an honoree among their members to speak at the Vigil.

This year’s speaker was Megan Smith, a lifelong Chautauquan. She also currently serves as the chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House and as an adviser to President Barack Obama.

“I love the CLSC vision because it really centers around the idea that there is only one type of person, that everyone is capable,” Smith said.

She finished her address with a quote from Winston Churchill.

“Churchill said the farther back you can look, the farther forward you will see,” Smith said. “And that’s why I love Chautauqua, our traditions and the CLSC.”

After receiving their diplomas in the Hall of Philosophy, the 2015 graduates will march to the Amphitheater, where they’ll be recognized with their class banner. The Class of 2015 chose “Creating Connections, Transforming Traditions” as its motto.

This year’s morning lecture schedule also offered a unique opportunity — the CLSC graduates will gather front and center in the Amp the same day as Erik Larson, one of this year’s CLSC authors. Larson will be speaking on Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania at 10:45 a.m. Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said she’s excited that Larson will get to see Chautauqua’s enthusiasm for reading and the CLSC firsthand.

“It’s fun, and it’s fun to watch,” Babcock said. “And it’s important in terms of the encouragement and celebration of reading.”

Miller said the importance of Recognition Day is that it is symbolic of Chautauqua Institution’s message of lifelong learning. He said he doesn’t know if the term was coined at Chautauqua, but it is essential to what the CLSC is all about.

“That’s one of the most American and human things we can do, in my opinion,” Miller said.