Posted by William Nunnelley & Mary Wimberley on 2005-12-17

Samford University graduated about 200 seniors during Fall commencement Saturday, Dec. 17, including the first 17 recipients of the new nurse anesthesia degree. One of the 17 was Sophia Quartey, a 43-year-old mother of three from Berrien Springs, Mich.

"I was approaching 40 and wanted to pursue this degree before I was too old," said Quartey, who received the master of science in nursing. When she applied to nurse anesthesia programs in Michigan, she faced a delay in enrolling. She qualified for Samford's program in the fall of 2003, and began right away.

It meant conducting family life long distance for 28 months. Her children ages 7, 9 and 14 remained in Michigan with father Matthew. "We spoke by telephone each morning before they went to school," she said. "If I didn't call them, they called me."

She traveled home when she could, and the children spent time in Birmingham during the summer. Her husband, Matthew, provided special support the entire time, said Quartey. "It has been a wonderful experience, but I'm glad I'm done," she added.

Matthew, the children and about a dozen other Quartey friends and relatives from as far away as California and Washington, D.C., attended Saturday's commencement program.

As is true for the other 16 nurse anesthesia graduates, Quartey already has a job lined up. She expects to work in the trauma center at two hospitals in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Nationwide, there is a 14 percent job vacancy rate in the certified nurse anesthetist workforce, said Dr. Michael A. Fiedler, chair of the department of nurse anesthesia at Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.

Alabama Department of Archives and History director Edwin Bridges spoke at Saturday's commencement, telling the seniors that history can help them meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.

"History helps us see what is going on and put it in perspective," said Bridges. "The knowledge that we are part of a historical pattern may not provide much relief when some aspect of change hits us in the head, but at least we can know that it is, as The Godfather said, 'not personal; it's business.'"

He added that such knowledge "can help us be more resilient, more ready to pick ourselves up, dust off, and jump back into the fray." History provides examples of people who have risen above what might have been predicted for them based on their circumstances, he said.

Bridges added a non-historical observation. "Real happiness is not achieved by direct pursuit," he said. "It is a by-product of some higher quest" such as lives dedicated to good work and service to others. "In pursuit of more noble ends, happiness is an unintended, though welcome, by-product."

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.