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June 11, 1939

Former trustee Rev. Dr. Arthur Lee Kinsolving of Trinity Church Boston invoked the 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems by fellow New Englander Robert P. Tristram Coffin, That Strange Holiness, in the title of his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1939. “The occasion of one’s graduation,” he told the class, “is the time for pondering the issue of the difference between the best and the second best. One sees it in its fullest clarity in youth.” This “strange holiness” so constitutes youth, he continued, “that we are constantly in search of that ‘summum bonum’ in life.” A gradual loss of clarity “as life spreads out into middle age,” he proposed, was a model for the current “world predicament.” Truths and half-truths are indistinguishable to weary elders, who, becoming “adept in this new social science of ‘alibiology,’” lose “the very capacity for aspiration. As we find the priceless thing in ourselves beginning to fade, we are lost to our true element, holden to earth, mundane creatures in a mundane world….The way out will be pointed again by those persons who have discovered the folly of making themselves their own ends and have recovered the vision of the true good in life in contradistinction to its goods.”

The New York Times, The Miscellany News

The Years