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Westmoreland Salutes Achievements of Graduates, Pays Tribute to Former President Thomas Corts

Posted by William Nunnelley on 2009-05-16

Samford University graduated the majority of its Class of 2009 in Pete Hanna Center Saturday, May 16, with all the traditional pomp and circumstance. As a crowd of more than 5,000 looked on, about 400 seniors in Samford's School of the Arts, Howard College of Arts and Sciences and Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies received their degrees in the largest of Samford's six commencement programs.

"In the rich fabric of Samford history, your class is significant for many reasons, most of them having to do with your considerable accomplishments," Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, the speaker, told the graduates.

While rejoicing in the achievements of the new graduating class, he took a few moments to share some thoughts from a former Samford president. This class was the last to enter Samford under Dr. Westmoreland's predecessor, Dr. Thomas E. Corts, who died in February. The class started in the fall of 2005 and Dr. Corts retired in the spring of 2006.

"I can think of no better tribute to Dr. Corts than to offer a few of his own observations about life, about learning, about faith, and about Samford," Westmoreland said. He then shared some quotes from Corts about a variety of subjects.

A partial sampling of the quotes follows:

* About rhetoric, Corts said, "Words have such power. They are a revelation of our selfhood, a window through which others view our souls. History teaches us that they are strategic, that they have enormous power, that they are incendiary, that they have delayed fuses, that they shape personalities, that they alter destinies."

Corts also advised, "Practice an economy of words. Spend them with great care." He quoted historian Will Durant, who said, "Nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a good thing to say.'"

* About faith, he said, "I hope that we can express even strong opinions in a spirit of love as befits those who name the name of Christ."

* About teaching and learning, he said, "Certain subjects must be taught in the presence of a teacher, and with good rapport between teacher and student. There seems to be good evidence that inspiration is lacking with a teacher absent."

* About Samford, he said, "Participating in a university is like being in a relay race--our generation has the baton for a few laps, and then we hand off to another. That is the best way the Lord's work gets done. . . . It has taken many generations for Samford to become a thriving, strong private university. We cannot allow it to slip in our time."

Westmoreland reminded the graduates that their future was bright in part because of the influence of Corts on Samford. "Count it a blessing that you knew this man, even if for one short season of your lives," he said.

Samford also awarded its top senior awards at the close of the program. The President's Cup--the valedictorian award for the highest academic average--went to two students, Carole Leigh Miller of Snellville, Ga., and Halley Lauren Morris of Columbus, Ga.

The Velma Wright Irons Award for the second highest average--the salutatorian award--went to Brittany Renee Stancombe of Clarksville, Tenn.

The John C. Pittman Spirit Award was presented to Richard Andrew Farmer of Fort Payne, Ala.

Samford Provost and Executive Vice President J. Bradley Creed also recognized four retiring faculty members--English professor Charles Workman, who served as the macebearer in the academic procession to close his 41-year career, chemistry professor James Haggard, teacher education professor Carol Dean and communication arts professor Amanda Borden. Westmoreland also recognized Dr. Richard Franklin, who is retiring after 19 years as vice president and dean of students, for his years of service to Samford.

Samford graduated about 800 students in all at the close of its 168th year. Exercises for the Brock School of Business, Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing and McWhorter School of Pharmacy were held Friday, May 15, while Cumberland School of Law graduated later in the day Saturday, May 16. Beeson Divinity School held graduation May 6. #

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