Published on May 27, 2002 by Mary Wimberley  

Samford University graduates were advised to display positive characteristics and to live above the crowd during a weekend of Commencement activity May 24-25.

"The kind of person you are has more to do with your success than anything," said Clay Johnson III, assistant to President George W. Bush, during Commencement Saturday, May 25.

As director of presidential personnel, Johnson established and managed a 40-person organization to identify and recruit several thousand new officials, executives and board and commission members for the Bush administration.

Johnson cited three traits that are important in finding appointees for the White House: the ability to work with other people, the courage to do the right thing, and the capability to respond positively and constructively to bad news.

A total of 807 seniors from 21 states and two foreign nations received degrees during the weekend. During Baccalaureate services on Friday, May 24, the nation's top Navy chaplain advised graduates that the need of the world today is for people to "live above the crowd."

"The world needs people who are true and honest, who possess moral ethics. We need men and women who are not afraid to call sin by its right name," said Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, Chief of Navy Chaplains, basing his sermon on Daniel, chapter one.

Black gave four principles that would enable graduates to do as Daniel did in choosing to live above the crowd when taken into Babylon: resolve to stay on the right path, receive God's favor, expect faith to be tested, and maintain a positive attitude.

"Daniel's faith was tested, but he maintained a positive attitude," said Black.

Peter Brickey LeQuire of Maryville, Tenn., received the President's Cup, the valedictorian award, for the highest academic average in the senior class.

Pamela Susan White of Ballwin, Mo., received the Velma Wright Irons Award for the second highest average.

Retired Birmingham business and civic leader James A. Head, Sr., and British writer John Pollock of Devonshire, England, received honorary doctorates. Head, a voice for progress during Birmingham's days of racial turmoil in the 1960s, received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

"Reaching beyond local tradition, he resolved to live by the Biblical imperatives of justice and mercy, uncompromised by time or circumstances," said Samford president Thomas E. Corts while presenting Head's award.

Head, 97, a deacon at Birmingham's Southside Baptist Church for some 75 years, served 30 years as state chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Pollock, author of more than 30 books on religion and Christian biography, received a Doctor of Letters degree. "As the world's preeminent Christian biographer…he has preserved for the ages the record of some of the great person and movements of the Christian faith," said Dr. Corts of Pollock.

Four Samford faculty members were attending their final Commencement before retirement. They are: Dr. Sigurd Bryan, religion, 46 years; Mary Hudson, math, 36 years; Steve Nelson, music, 41 years; and Dr. H. Edward Tibbs, music, 43 years.

Federal Judge Joel F. Dubina of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals spoke during graduation exercises for Samford's Cumberland School of Law on Saturday afternoon. A total of 161 seniors received juris doctor degrees.

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.