Published on April 29, 2023 by Ashley Smith  
McGinnis Commencement

On Saturday, April 29, 2023, Samford University’s School of the Arts and Howard College of Arts and Sciences had a joint spring commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Pete Hanna Center.  Howard College of Arts and Sciences awarded 188 degrees and the School of the Arts 75.

President Beck A. Taylor presided over the events and welcomed the graduates to join the over 56,000 living Samford alumni. The ceremony included an invocation by School of the Arts professor Jeannie Krumdieck, a scripture reading by Howard College of Arts and Sciences assistant professor Josh Reeves, a presentation of degrees by J. Michael Hardin, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, singing of the Alma Mater led by School of the Arts voice professor Sharon Lawhon, and a closing benediction by Howard College of Arts and Sciences assistant professor Will Kynes. 

Several academic awards were presented. Gregory Ethan Young, an engineering and physics major in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences, received the President’s Cup which is given to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average.

The John C. Pittman Spirit Award recognizes graduating students who consistently exhibit Christian character in community life. Three graduates from Howard College of Arts and Sciences received three of five of this year’s Pittman Awards: Ella Anderson (communications studies), Cole Powers (international relations) and Scarlet Rose Stearns (communication studies).

The address was given by Beth McGinnis, assistant professor of musicology in the School of the Arts. A recent recipient of the Buchanan Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, McGinnis is an active accompanist, organist at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, a yoga instructor and hosts a podcast “Hear in Alabama” which explores the rich musical cultures of her home state. As the coordinator for community music initiatives at Samford, she has developed partnerships with the Perry County school bands, the Mt. Gilead Scholastic and Artistic Institute in Coy, Alabama, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and the Alabama School for the Blind. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano from Samford University, a Master of Music in Musicology from Texas Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her husband Scott teaches in Samford’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies and introduced Beth at the commencement.

McGinnis encouraged the graduates to live with intention and to make connections.  She shared her iPad password with the audience, “C-zero-n-n-3-c-t,” to demonstrate her desire to remember to connect with people, tasks, mind, and emotions in the moment. She asked the audience to think about who has influenced their lives but also consider being that person for someone else. 

“You can’t know who might look back thirty years from now at a picture of you today and say, ‘that’s my lifelong best friend.,” said McGinnis. “You can’t know who might think of you in some graduation ceremony someday when asked to remember who loved them, who wanted the best for them, who helped them become who they are. You don’t know who will be healthier, safer, happier, or safer thirty years from now because of the work you did. Those things may very well happen, though. If they are going to happen, how should you live your life today?”

“It’s okay to have great big goals in life,” McGinnis continued. “Especially at graduation, it’s okay to want to save the world. To work for restoration. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Healing. Just remember we do that one intentional moment at a time. One connection at a time. Remember, it adds up. C-zero-n-n-3-c-t.”



Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.