About the only way to take in everything at Samford University's Homecoming 2008 was to look down from the hot air balloon that gave hundreds of alumni and their families a bird's eye view of the busy campus. Virtually every corner of campus bustled with activity on a beautiful autumn day, Saturday, Oct. 25.
Dozens of tents on the quadrangle and at a special tailgating area afforded gathering spots for affinity groups and organizations.
Two groups enjoyed special reunions: A Cappella Choir alumni who came from near and far to honor retired music dean and choir director Dr. L. Gene Black, and 1971 national championship football team members who convened under shade trees near Seibert Stadium.
Choir alumna Gini Hallquist Young '01 came from Greenville, S.C. to participate in the weekend tribute to "DB" as he is known. She had attended the Friday evening event recognizing Black's life as a musician, educator and Christian.
"It is very nice to see him honored that way," said Young, who had enjoyed rehearsals to prepare for a Saturday night concert of past and present Samford performance groups. "The memories just came flooding back. He has a way of mixing humor with intense practice so that it doesn't feel like work."
Mickey Tumlin '73 of Birmingham and his Bulldog teammates re-lived memories from the national championship game that was played in Phenix City, Ala., rather than at Samford on Thanksgiving morning as originally planned. The closeness that helped them bring home the glory remains today, he said.
"We were like a fraternity, and have remained close through the years," recalled Tumlin. What won the championship wasn't just the way plays were executed on the field, he said, "but the unity and bond we had on the field. We were playing for each other. We were a true team."
At game time, he and teammates formed a human corridor to "high five" this year's Bulldogs as they ran onto the field.
The Bulldog alumni were joined by their former head coach Wayne Grubb as well as teammate Gary Cooney '74, who flipped the coin to get Saturday's game started against the Bulldogs from The Citadel. Earlier, it was announced that the new football field house under construction will be named the Cooney Family Field House following a lead gift made by Cooney in honor of his parents and other family members.
Halftime activity included the crowning of the 2008 Homecoming queen, Emily Gettys, a senior nursing major from Alexander City. Billy Gunter, a senior music major from Pelham, was named Honor Escort. They were chosen by vote of the student body.
Earlier in the day, parade watchers waved back as the grand marshal, Miss Alabama Amanda Tapley, who wore a Miss Samford crown before winning the state title, led a procession that included floats, the Samford marching band, and vehicles carrying campus dignitaries, Homecoming court members and alumni of the year Bennie Bumpers 63, Paula Smith Hovater 69 and Rod Hovater '67.
Phi Mu sorority won the prize for best float with its "Sandwich the Citadel" entry.
However, it was Student Ministries' marching kazoo band that won the favor of alumnus Joe Wingard '66 M.A. '72 of Andalusia, Ala. "It was hilarious," Wingard said of the unit that gave the fight song a unique sound.
Wingard caught the parade between enjoyable stops at the Live at the Library event with singer/songwriter Kate Campbell '83 and historian Wayne Flynt '61, and the health fair sponsored by McWhorter School of Pharmacy and CVS.
Alumni of all ages took advantage of health screenings for various diseases and the availability of flu shots. For the hard-working volunteers, a highlight was the hot dog eating contest between three-member student and faculty teams.
Held at the table where students also dispensed information on heartburn, the contest ended with a score of students 17, faculty 15. The prize, however, went to professor and alumnus Michael Hogue Pharm.D. 96 who downed seven hot dogs in five minutes.
Saturday's "Evening to Remember" featured performances by Samford instrumental and vocal groups, including the A Cappella alumni choir under the direction of Dr. Black.
The many highlights included a spirit-filled "Amen" solo by former A Cappella singer Andre Ashley, who was backed by a Concert Hall stage filled with current and alumni choir members.
"It is so wonderful to hear this great music sung by all these great people. It is just awesome," said Black before leading all singers and the full audience in the choir's traditional closing piece, "Beautiful Savior."
Sunday's events included a worship service led by Samford professor Dr. Jim Barnette '83. In a sermon titled "Homecoming Servants," Barnette urged worshipers to not judge and label people based on narrow criteria, but to offer unquestioning, "uncomplicated grace" and to treat a sinner who comes home "with dignity."
Singer Kate Campbell closed out the full weekend with a special Sunday evening concert of music from her latest recording, "Save the Day."
Graduates of 50 years ago or more gathered for their traditional "Golden Bulldog" brunch on Saturday morning. James Wood '47 of Baton Rouge, La., won the Lockmiller award given to the male who represents the earliest class and who has not received the award previously.
Three members of the class of 1948 tied for the honor given to the female: sisters Dorothy Perkinson Edgar of Dallas, Texas, and Margie Perkinson Wallace of Birmingham and Doris Teague Atchison of Birmingham. The gift, a clock, went to Mrs. Edgar, whose birth date precedes the others.