Published on November 26, 2014 by Philip Poole  

Sixteen Samford University students have been selected as senior honorees to lead the university’s Hanging of the Green service Dec. 4. The 34th annual service is at 6 p.m. in Samford’s Reid Chapel.

Senior honorees are nominated by faculty and staff, and then a selection committee chooses the honorees based on leadership, scholarship, spiritual commitment and community service, according to April Robinson, the university minister who coordinates the service. Nominees had to submit a written application that included information about their Samford activities and experiences and why they wanted to be selected.

“This year’s recipients are among Samford’s top academic students and are involved in a variety of campus, community and church activities,” Robinson said. “They truly are among the best of the best.”

Honorees include:

Abigail Benke, voice performance major from Jasper, Alabama. Benke has been involved in theatre, opera and choral performances at Samford. She believes performance requires trust, saying, “Trust in the other performers to do what they are supposed to do, trust yourself and the abilities that God has graciously given, and ultimately trust in God.”

Anna Bethea, music major from Shalimar, Florida. Bethea is a member of Samford Orchestra and participated in the group’s recent tour to the Dominican Republic. “This trip inspired me to always seek to use my music and my life to imitate Christ,” Bethea said.

John Michael Blackmon, religion major from Carbon Hill, Alabama. He is a Preministerial Scholar and has been active with the Samford Sunday program. “I strive for academic excellence because I believe it is an act of worship to take the gift and opportunities [God] has given me and make the most of them,” he said.

Tyler Hood, exercise science major from Kingston, Tennessee. Hood is a member of the men’s basketball team. Because of a scheduling conflict, he will not be able to participate in the service. Hood has been active with RANSOM – Radical Athlete and Student Oasis Ministry. He said, “I have learned that the best disciples work on a daily basis with those they see every day.”

Joshua Lay, history major from Brierfield, Alabama.  Lay also is involved with the Latin American studies program. “To be involved in Samford’s time to honor Chris and prepare for the Christmas season [is] very special to me,” he noted. “My favorite part of Christmas is the focus we as Christians place on the incarnation of our Savior.”

Melanie McConnell, science and religion major from Longwood, Florida. In addition to other activities, she has been a member of the Samford Jazz Band. “Investing in music and sharing that with the community . . . reminds me to use my talents and abilities beyond academics,” McConnell said, “to become a well-rounded person who can relate to many different types of people.”

Kendall McPheeters, biology and religion major from Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. Reflecting on her Samford experience, McPheeters said, “These four years were never about me. The only way these four years would count is if I allow God to take my ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary in his grace and mercy.

Amanda Moritz, psychology major from Cedar Park, Texas. A knee injury prematurely ended her Samford volleyball career. “My life was dramatically changed as I began to look at my purpose on campus with a ministry mindset and as a believer in mission,” she explained.

Melanie Neff, human development and family science major from Derwood, Maryland. She is in Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. “I was very humbled to become a part of this prestigious group and to be recognized with fellow students that I deeply admire and respect,” Neff said.

David Osula, biochemistry major from Jasper, Alabama. Osula has been the Samford student liaison with Habitat for Humanity for three years.  “Any service that you get physically, emotionally and spiritually invested in will eventually allow you to see your service as an outpouring of God’s love,” he noted.

Patrick Ramsay, journalism and mass communication major from Clayton, Georgia. Senior class president, he has served as a tutor for underprivileged children at a local library. Of that experience, Ramsay said, “It shaped my character by making me realize that success and happiness isn’t made from our outside resources, but from loving and serving everyone around us.”

Jillian Rufe, nursing major from Huntsville, Alabama. “God has used faculty and staff to affirm my talents, giving and passions, and to encourage me throughout my time in college,” Rufe said. “I have so much peace related to nursing because of how God used teachers who were willing to invest in me.”

Nicole Smith, human development and family science major from Marietta, Georgia. Smith has been active with the Office of Spiritual life as a student and noted that she was first drawn to the Hanging of the Green tradition as a freshman. “When I entered Reid Chapel my freshman year for Hanging of the Green, some thing, some feeling, captivated me,” she said. I was in awe of story and tradition of decorating the chapel and was inspired by the character of the senior honors that took part in the ceremony.”

Rachel Stanback, journalism and mass communication major from Columbus, Mississippi. Stanback has been involved in many campus activities and spent a semester of her junior year at Samford’s London Centre. “I got to see how people on the other side of the world live incredibly different, yet happy lives,” she said. “It was humbling and paradigm-shifting, and if it were not for Samford I would not have had that experience.”

Eleanor Stenner, journalism and mass communication major from Fayetteville, Georgia. Stenner has been a member of Samford’s A Cappella Choir for our years. “I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship in different Christian denominational settings – something I had rarely done since my dad is a Southern Baptist pastor,” she said. “It has opened my eyes to the different ways in which we can worship God.”

Will Yarborough, history and religion major from Gallatin, Tennessee. He is a Preministerial Scholar and said the program had exposed him to “those who think and believe differently” than he does. “Everything I’ve seen leads me to view my faith like a plant,” he said. “I would not have been able to see it this way without my time in the Preministerial Scholars program.”

Stenner and Yarborough will serve as narrators.

The 60-member University Chorale, directed by Sharon Lawhon, will provide music for the service.

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.