Published on August 17, 2020 by Kristen Padilla  
Virtual Commencement Story
Beeson staff deliver a gift to M.Div. graduate Emily (Hall) Hazleton on Aug. 15.

Twenty-one students graduated from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in its first virtual commencement service on Aug. 15 at 1 p.m.

After having cancelled its in-person Commencement and Service of Consecration due to COVID-19, the divinity school celebrated the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Master of Arts in Theological Studies graduates with a virtual ceremony on a specially designed commencement webpage.

“What a year this has been,” said Beeson’s Dean Douglas Sweeney during virtual commencement. “On the one hand, we’re sorry you’ve had to finish your seminary journey online, but on the other hand, I think when we all look back on this year, we will count your Beeson graduation as the most memorable commencement any of us have ever known.”

The virtual commencement included remarks from Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, Provost J. Michael Hardin, and Gerald R. McDermott, who retired in May as Beeson’s Anglican Chair of Divinity. The service also included a special time of prayer for each graduate led by several Beeson faculty members.

Prior to virtual commencement, Sweeney, his wife Wilma, and several Beeson staff members delivered gifts to local graduates, congratulating them on their accomplishment and welcoming them into the Beeson alumni community.

“This isn’t what we wanted the day to look like,” said M.Div. graduate Emily (Hall) Hazleton, “but it’s been really sweet. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make it special.”

On May 1, the school’s original commencement date, the divinity school shared special remarks from faculty about each graduate as well as a video with prayers and blessings from the faculty. Sweeney told the graduates during virtual commencement he hopes they will cherish these celebrations, but “more importantly, we will cherish our friendships and fellowship with you for years to come. You now join all the saints in the worldwide family of Beeson alumni.”

Sweeney concluded his remarks with a comment from Beeson’s Robert Smith Jr., the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity.

“Your class represents adjustment in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest and is being sent at such a time as this with a mantle to boldly proclaim the Word of God,” Smith said. “You’re equipped for every good work; go, therefore, and preach, teach, and live the gospel of Jesus the Christ.”


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.