Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-11-07

The Samford University campus was filled with laughter and hugs Saturday as alumni reunited and renewed friendships that in some cases spanned half a century.

The quadrangle, with its sea of white reunion tents and colorful hot-air balloon, was the focal point, but affinity groups found special spaces all across campus. Whether at the A Cappella Choir reunion sing-along in Reid Chapel, or at the 1984 football team’s reunion on a grassy knoll overlooking Seibert Stadium, kindred spirits found ways to re-connect and reminisce.

On Friday evening, three alumni were singled out for special honors at the Homecoming banquet.

Mike ’61 and Carolyn Yeager Robinson ‘60, known for their enthusiastic support of Samford on many levels, received the Alumni of the Year Award.

Eric Motley ‘96, managing director of the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C. was named the inaugural Outstanding Young Alumnus.

“Mike and Carolyn, we appreciate your steady presence, and all the ways you support Samford,” said Samford president Andrew Westmoreland after Alumni Association president Greg Powell made the presentations.

And addressing Motley, a former Samford student government president and White House assistant, Westmoreland quipped, “Eric, Alabama casts its nine electoral votes for a future president of the United States.”

Following the banquet, many alumni joined students around a spectacular bonfire for music and a pep rally.

Alumni of all ages found something to celebrate during a busy schedule of reunions and activities.

Two were this year’s recipients of the Lockmiller Award given to the male and female alumni representing the earliest classes at the Golden Bulldog brunch.

Winners Howard Foshee ’50 of Spanish Fort, Ala., and Doris Teague Atchison ’48, M.B.A. ’69, of Birmingham took home special Samford clocks to acknowledge the occasion.

The department of journalism and mass communication inducted three members into its new Wall of Fame at a special Saturday morning ceremony. Inaugural inductees are journalism educator Jon Clemmensen of Birmingham, newspaper journalist Carol Fishburn Nunnelley ’65 of Birmingham and book publisher Randall Williams of Montgomery, Ala.               

Some alumni found their way “home” to their alma mater after many years away.

Gary Mhoon, a 1982 graduate from Atlanta, Ga., was making his first Homecoming visit since graduation.

“I began reconnecting with old classmates on Facebook, and decided I was way overdue for a Homecoming,” said Mhoon as he waited with other  former A Cappella choir members to join the song fest.

More recent graduate Carrie Tomlinson Stevenson ’99 didn’t mind waiting in line with her children for the popular hot-air balloon ride.

“I wanted the kids to see the campus, and I wanted to enjoy the colorful scenery,” said Stevenson, who met her husband, Eric Stevenson J.D. ’98 while she was in undergraduate school and he was in law school.

‘I really miss Birmingham this time of year,” said the Pensacola, Fla., resident, who had especially enjoyed a Friday evening cooking demonstration that featured New York chef James Briscione ’01, who is also from Pensacola. The chef’s mother, she said, teaches her son in kindergarten.

Briscione, joined by his wife Brooke and infant daughter Parker, was grand marshal for the Saturday morning parade.

“That was a first for me, and a lot of fun,” Briscione, a repeat champion on the Food Network’s Chopped! program, said after the parade.

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. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 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.