At their last opportunity to worship together as undergraduates, many Samford University seniors heard from student, faculty and staff representatives at Baccalaureate service on Friday, May 15.
In a twist from the standard practice of one guest speaker, the service featured four presenters, all of whom, noted Samford president Andrew Westmoreland, were from "within the Samford bubble."
Speakers shared thoughts on scholarship, friendship and faith.
Reflecting on scholarship, graduating senior Andy Farmer said that he discovered that learning is not the same as making good grades, "and it is much more important."
Farmer said that the most important he has learned at Samford, however, is that Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived.
"Although unsurpassed in such qualities as kindness and gentleness, Jesus' number one quality was intellect," said Farmer, a communication studies major from Fort Payne, Ala.. "We are in a position to ask his intelligent cooperation and assistance with everything we have to do."
Senior Jeanne Cross shared the significance of friendships made during her four years, beginning with tentative attempts to cultivate friends during freshman orientation and in the campus cafeteria.
Cross, an Independent, said that now, as she graduates, her treasured circle of friends includes Greeks, intramural sport teammates with whom she shared hard-fought flag football games, and University Ministries friends. The latter, said the psychology and sociology major from Moulton, Ala., "show Jesus' love through their lives."
Reflecting on faith, assistant football coach Chris Brasfield urged the students to "get out of the bubble" for the Gospel. Referencing the scripture of Jesus walking on the water, "We have water-walkers in this class," Brasfield said, adding that water-walkers can discern between faith and foolishness. "They get out of the boat, and trust God more than they trust themselves."
Water-walkers, he said, learn to wait on God and wait to hear God. "As you move forward, allow your faith to lead you."
Reflecting on all three themes, Brock School of business associate professor Betsy Holloway noted that during their time at Samford, the students have been blessed with enduring relationships, an environment fostering spiritual growth, and "a community surrounding you with opportunities to learn and grow."
However, she observed, this year's class will be entering a world more broken and in greater need than any before. A global economy in recession, rampant illiteracy, high incarceration numbers and school dropout rates, global poverty and poor healthcare are among challenges almost too many count.
"Despite all these seemingly overwhelming realties in the world around, I remain hopeful, optimistic even, in large part because of you and the living faith that leads you," said Dr. Holloway.
Samford graduates, including all of those from the school's varied academic areas, she said, are prepared "to enter the world, to plow and sow the fields, and to shine their light, leaving this world a better place than they found it."
She quoted writer/theologian Frederick Buechner, who described one's vocation as "that place where God calls you to, the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
Holloway said the hoped each graduate would find that vocation. "May you build from the foundation of your time here at Samford, and put to use the talents, skills and values we have invested in you to go out into our world and impart your change.
"Indeed, you are the light of the world, and the world will be better for it."