Published on April 23, 2021 by Sarah Waller  
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Samford University’s College of Health Sciences held its spring commencement ceremony for its graduate programs on April 23, awarding 338 master’s and doctoral degrees to graduates from the college’s four schools: School of Health Professions, Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy and School of Public Health.

The ceremony marked a first for the School of Public Health, awarding its Doctor of Public Health to the program’s inaugural graduate, Rachel Stokes.

To allow for social distancing, the ceremony took place in Seibert Stadium with graduates and their guests in attendance. University President Andrew Westmoreland served as the commencement speaker.

Westmoreland, who will retire as the university’s 18th president at the end of the academic year, will be speaking at three of Samford’s commencement ceremonies this spring. Knowing this, he announced to the graduates that he would be sharing nine lessons he has learned throughout his career, three at each ceremony.

“These nine points reflect the things I have tried to understand over the 42 years of my career in higher education. They are incredibly simple yet difficult to follow. Remember, as I mention them to you this morning, I am preaching to myself, as well as you,” he said.

Lesson One: I need to listen carefully.

Westmoreland recalled that many of the arguments he experienced in life were, at their root, the result of poor listening. “Have you noticed during this era of masking that we have begun to return to the practice of looking at another person’s eyes as we hear them? Now that’s a COVID practice to retain. Let’s listen with our ears and our eyes. Let’s give our full attention,” he said.   

Lesson Two: I need to guard and limit my own speech, spoken or written.

He continued by noting, even though he has an opinion, it doesn’t mean he has the unfettered right to express it. “Our first draft is seldom our best draft. Our thoughts, our conclusions and our speech benefit from reflection and refinement,” he said. 

Lesson Three: I need to extend grace to others, even if I feel I have not received grace from them.

In today’s society, Westmoreland comments, insult often begets insult and hurt is returned in equal measure. “We might remember that we are the beneficiaries of unmerited grace from a loving God. I need to do my part to end the cycle of destruction. I need to extend grace to others even if I feel I have not received grace from them,” he said.

In his conclusion, Westmoreland encouraged the graduates to remember these three lessons. “Do these things and when you are old, your lives will be fulfilled, your families will be happier and maybe, just maybe, the world will be better for it,” he said.