One college, four schools, 597 stories.
From April 28-29, Samford University’s College of Health Sciences—home to the School of Health Professions, McWhorter School of Pharmacy, Moffett and Sanders School of Nursing and School of Public Health—honored 597 graduates, each with their own “Samford story.”
The graduates, who either earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, congregated at Samford’s Pete Hanna Center over two days for the university’s spring commencement ceremonies.
“I am 100% confident that each of you has a Samford story,” said Suresh Mathews, chair of the School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and speaker for the April 28 undergraduate ceremony, where 266 graduates received their degrees. “Who impacted you the most at Samford? What is your success story?”
“Your story may be of the time that you went out of the way to be there for your friend … for some, your story may be about your leadership skills or your innate empathy for others. It could be when you received the best grade in class or something that a professor said to you. Write these down, for you will have a bigger story soon to be unraveled.”
Mathews told his own story, which began in Southern India. Born into a middle-class Christian family, Mathews said he was fortunate to receive a sound education. He earned a doctoral degree from the University of Madras in India, and, during his dissertation defense, was told by the examiner that he “spoke like a seasoned professor.”
That, he said, was his dream job. Following numerous applications and denials, Mathews was finally awarded a position at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan.
“And if that was my first dream come true, my standing here today is proof that dreams become a reality if we really work hard and allow God’s hand to guide us in this life’s journey,” he said.
For the graduates, he offered two thoughts.
“First, success comes only by overcoming the fear of failure,” he said. “Without failure, there is no success. Failure is inevitable if you want to succeed.”
The second thought, he said, is more of a response: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
“I know this is a tough one,” Mathews said. “If you are faced with a dilemma, and you are asking yourself, should I do this? Is this God’s plan for me? Are you the person looking at the storm and the dark clouds of the system, culture or surroundings and saying to yourself, ‘Lord, not me; I am afraid to step out into the deep waters.’ Or would you overcome your fears and take that step, in bold faith, heeding the call to say, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
Amy Snow, director of clinical services and assistant professor in Moffett and Sanders School of Nursing’s Department of Nurse Anesthesia, spoke at the April 29 graduate ceremony, encouraging the 337 graduates to apply their degrees and experience to “the long game.”
Snow cited Matthew 25, emphasizing the importance of using one’s talents wisely and for the benefit of others.
“What will you do with the degree you’ve worked so hard for?” she asked. “Will you serve as an advocate for those who can’t or don’t know how to speak for themselves? Will you slow down long enough to bridge the gap for the hurting, truly looking in their eyes to love earnestly? Prioritize the long game, the end goal. The reward will be of greater value than anything here on Earth.”
Snow shared her own Samford story. She and her husband met on the perpetually green lawn surrounding Mr. Beeson’s statue on campus. Little did they know they would eventually marry and raise a sizable and diverse family—complete with a 12-seater minivan.
Although they initially struggled with fertility issues, they eventually welcomed twin boys and a daughter, all within 15 months. Soon after, a calling to foster blessed them with four children and then three adoptions.
“It’s OK for things to be hard,” she admitted. “It’s OK for things not to be logical in an earthly sense. The Lord will provide. All of our professions call us to engage with people in very vulnerable times of their lives. It’s tough to love well when you, too, are tired, frustrated and maybe even scared. But this is where the light shines the brightest.”