Blessing of the Graduates

2024 Blessing of the Graduates Ceremony (Baccalaureate)

Friday, May 24 at 4:00 pm
La Verne Church of the Brethren


  • For Students: Please RSVP on the Commencement Participant Form sent to you by email.  Check your email for a link to the form.  If you cannot find the link, please email
  • For Faculty and Staff:  RSVP Here

Information about the Blessing of the Graduates!

The Blessing of the Graduates (also known as Baccalaureate) is a spiritually-inspired, multifaith ceremony to honor and bless our graduates!

The ceremony includes an inspirational keynote speaker (see below), readings and music from a diversity of spiritual and philosophical traditions, and a special blessing to honor the gifts and personhood of each graduate as they complete their degree, move on, and continue their journey.  The ceremony is led by University dignitaries and the University Chaplain.  Graduates and Faculty process in and out in their regalia.

Graduates are invited to bring their friends and family to enjoy this celebration and ceremony. There is no seating limits.  Guest tickets are not required.  We ask that graduates RSVP above to let us know you are coming!  For those attending a commencement ceremony on Friday night, graduates and guests will have time to line-up for commencement after the Baccalaureate Ceremony!

Graduates: Please arrive at 3:30 p.m. with your regalia to line-up and prepare for the procession of graduates and faculty.  Graduates will line-up on the patio of the La Verne Church of the Brethren.  Guests can be seated anytime after 2:30 pm.  The La Verne Church of the Brethren is located at 2425 “E” Street, La Verne, CA  91750.

Remember to bring your cap and gown!

If you have questions about the Blessing of the Graduates Ceremony, please contact Rev. Zandra Wagoner, University Chaplain at or 909-446-4448.

2024 Baccalaureate Speaker: Vanessa Gomez Blake

Vanessa Gomez Blake is an interfaith leader, educator, peacemaker, musician, Filipino folk dancer, Humanist chaplain and Associate Dean of Religious Life at USC.

She is the first humanist chaplain to serve in this capacity at any American university. In her role, she works to support and promote university religious and spiritual life broadly conceived, and helps oversee more than 90 student religious groups and 50 religious directors on campus. She also serves as an advisor to the USC Interfaith Council and the Secular Student Fellowship.

By recommendation of the Provost’s Advisory Task Force on Immigration, in 2017 – 2021 Vanessa provided confidential counseling and support to undocumented Trojans. In this capacity, she assisted members of the university community in navigating USC’s campus resources: financial aid, academic & housing issues, basic needs, community connection, confidential advising, and legal support.

Previously, Vanessa worked at Stanford University’s Office for Religious Life, where she led campus programming and worked closely with student-led religious groups. At Stanford, she organized ceremonies, events, programs, and worship services at the historic Stanford Memorial Church and CIRCLE: Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning, and Experiences. Additionally, she played a supporting role at the Windhover Contemplative Center, and the campus-wide series Contemplation-by-Design.

As an accomplished Filipino folk dancer and multi-instrumentalist, Vanessa has performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall for Filipino American History Month celebrations. Her folk artistry is an extension of her interfaith work, as her performances showcase the diverse traditions, rituals, and beliefs of Muslim, Christian, and indigenous peoples of the Philippines.

Vanessa received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Religious Studies and Psychology from Arizona State University. She received her Master of Science degree from the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, with an emphasis on religion and peacemaking. She also earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Vanessa also holds a Certificate in Humanist Studies & Leadership from the Humanist Institute and is endorsed as a humanist chaplain by the Humanist Society.

In 2023, Vanessa received the Outstanding Professional Award from NASPA’s Spirituality & Religion in Higher Education Knowledge Community.  In 2019, she was the recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association – Person of the Year Award. In 2018, Chicago Theological Seminary awarded Vanessa the Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award.   She holds a variety of board positions with the Association for Chaplaincy & Spiritual Life in Higher Education, Meadville Lombard Theological School, the American Humanist Association (AHA), and Parangal.