Posted by William A. Nunnelley on 2010-05-15

Pam Siddall, the new president and publisher of The Birmingham News, challenged Samford University graduates to believe in themselves, “even when others don’t,” and to pursue high standards during commencement exercises Saturday, May 15.

“It takes courage to believe in yourself, to be able to adjust and adapt to an ever-changing world, to take risks knowing that you’ll sometimes fail,” she said.  “You must have a strong belief in yourself to do the right thing, even when faced with criticism.

“Life is all about trade-offs,” she added.  “Have the courage to make tough choices.”

She quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who said, “This above all: To thine ownself be true,” and added, “Ultimately we are accountable to ourselves, so be true to your convictions and listen to your gut.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome fear.”

Siddall spoke to an audience of more than 5,000 in Samford’s Pete Hanna Center. Graduates from Samford’s largest school, the Howard College of Arts and Sciences, received diplomas, along with graduates of its School of the Arts and Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies—some 400 undergraduate and graduate degrees in all.  Another 400 graduates of Samford’s business, law, nursing and pharmacy schools received diplomas Friday, May 14. Samford’s divinity school had commencement exercises May 5.

The publisher also urged seniors to commit to serve others because “everyone needs a cause larger than themselves.” She said ultimately, they won’t be judged by how much money they have, “but by the impact you made in the lives of others.”

Siddall reminded the graduates, “It’s important to understand that you can’t do it alone,” adding that her mother was her inspiration.

She quoted Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter David Shipler who said, “Don’t stay in your comfort zone. . . . push yourself further than you think you can go (and) you will give more richly if you give of all your talents to the larger world.”

Siddall also reminded the students of a quote from World War I Secretary of War Newton Baker: “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”

In closing, she told the graduates, “America is going through a challenging time that is unprecedented.  But, the resilience

and greatness of America, the resilience and greatness in its people and the resilience and greatness that lies within each of you will prevail.”

In remarks to the graduates, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland noted that the class of 2010 would always be “his

class.” He became president in the summer of 2006, as the class of 2010 was entering as freshmen.

Samford recognized its top student award winners at the close of the program.  Sarah Michelle Franklin of Taylorsville, Ga., a graduate of Samford’s Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing, received the President’s Cup for the highest academic average.  Crystal M. Martin of Wayzata, Minn., a mid-year graduate of Samford’s Brock School of Business, received the Velma Wright Irons Award for the second highest average.

The John C. Pittman Spirit Award went to two students—Meredith Shaw of Lexington, Ky., a communication studies major, and Trey Montgomery of Destrehan, La., a family studies major. The Pittman Award honors a Samford alumnus and long-time trustee.

Samford Provost and Executive Vice President Brad Creed recognized three faculty members who are retiring—music professor Timothy Banks, associate librarian Sue Peterson and German professor Terry Pickett.

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.