Published on May 1, 2022 by Morgan Black
Randall L. Woodfin, mayor of the City of Birmingham, Alabama, addressed the Samford University Cumberland School of Law class of 2022 during the commencement ceremony held April 30, 2022, in Samford’s Pete Hanna Center.
Woodfin, a member of Cumberland School of Law’s class of 2007, was elected mayor of Birmingham in 2017 and reelected for a second term in 2021.
He opened his addressed acknowledging President Beck A. Taylor and the faculty and staff for pouring into the graduates, and the families and friends of the graduates for their support.
Then, to the class he began, “Graduates, it’s good to be with you all today and it’s good to be back home. When I come back to this campus it takes me back to when I was student here. As I look at all of you in this audience, my question to each of you is ‘What is your why?’”
Woodfin stated that sometimes we get caught up in the “when” and the “where” that we miss the most important question…the “why.”
“I came to Cumberland for answers and those answers did not come easily at all. I struggled because I wasn’t even sure I really want to be a lawyer.”
He said it was during a summer internship, and through three years of law school challenges, that he found his “why.”
Woodfin said, “My why is simple…I was destined to be a servant leader and to protect and serve this community, not only for this generation, but for generations to come. My why became my truth. So, I ask you again, what is your why? If you haven’t determined your why yet, it’s not too late. Standing on this stage I can’t tell you your why because each of your journeys is different, but I can tell you how to achieve it. You achieve it by connecting with the communities you serve and by finding and digging deep for your passion. You have to realize what motivates you; let that drive you forward. You achieve it by being your real authentic self. You also achieve it by embracing your why, which means your why has to be your truth. I firmly believe that the unarmed truth will never be denied, and the truth will always win. I am confident in that because Cumberland helped me hone my why. It put me on the path to open doors, to protect, to lead, and to serve my community, and I am confident in all of you as well. Let your why be the catalyst of change.”
After the address, the names of each graduate were read by Dean Corky Strickland, and the degrees were conferred and presented by President Taylor and Denise Gregory, associate provost for student success and diversity and inclusion.
Cumberland School of Law’s class of 2022 includes 143 new Juris Doctors, 16 of which earned a joint degree, two recipients of the Master of Laws, eight recipients of the Master of Studies in Law, and two recipients of the joint Master of Studies in Law/Doctor of Pharmacy. In addition, three judges from Brazil who earned the Master of Comparative Law in a previous semester, attended the ceremony to receive their degree in person.
Following the presentation of the degrees, Strickland presented the Daniel Austin Brewer Professionalism Award.
He said, “This award is special because it reminds us of Governor Albert Brewer who was a friend, professor, mentor and even idol to many of us and to people across Alabama who served Cumberland, Samford and the state for decades. It is also special because the award recognizes values that are at the heart of what Cumberland is about. It is not an award for the highest academic achievement or for being the greatest advocate. Rather, this award is granted to a graduating student who best exemplifies the high standards of ethics and professionalism expected of members of the legal profession.”
Tyler Flowers from Mobile, Alabama, was the 2022 recipient.
Flowers, recognized by the Cumberland community as a true servant leader, served in countless ways during his time in law school. He was as an admission ambassador, a member of the Career Development Advisory Board and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and director of alumni affairs for the southern region of the national chapter of the BLSA. He was a member of Cumberland’s National Trial Team and involved in the Student Bar Association (SBA) throughout his time at Cumberland. In 2021, he was elected SBA president.
Strickland added, “As multiple nominations stated, he carries himself with confidence, but not arrogantly; he is always courteous and pleasant; he is always willing to lend a hand and help others; and he manages the many things in which he is involved with grace and efficiency. This year’s Brewer Award recipient exemplifies the professionalism, integrity and morals that Governor Brewer expected of a Cumberland lawyer. As one nomination said in its entirety: ‘Tyler Flowers. Enough said.’”
Before the ceremony closed, Spencer Silveus, who served as the third-year president for the class of 2022, made brief remarks highlighting the group’s bond and special connections they have made throughout their time in law school.
As is custom at the commencement ceremony, faculty retirees were recognized for their dedicated service to the university and the law school. Retiring from the faculty this year are Professors Brad Bishop and John Carroll. Bishop has been a part of Samford’s faculty for 55 years and Carroll served the faculty for 21 years. In addition, President Taylor acknowledged Dean Strickland for his service as dean since 2014. Strickland will return to full-time teaching in the next academic year.
Following the ceremony, a reception was held for the graduates and their guests.
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. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 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 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.