Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-05-14

By week’s end, Samford University senior Justin Vesser will have emceed an awards program, received a doctor of pharmacy degree from McWhorter School of Pharmacy, given the class president’s remarks, and likely welcomed his first child into the world.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would be looking at three days like this, I would have said ‘no way,’” said Vesser, whose route to a Pharm.D. degree had more than a few turns and dips. “I’ve been very blessed.”

He will be among about 800 Samford seniors receiving degrees during programs May 14 and 15.

In 2005, he was successfully completing a two-year community college degree in Tennessee, but an attempt to enroll in an area nursing school was stymied by a poor academic record he had amassed earlier.

“I didn’t have my mind right to be a college student,” said Vesser, a good high school student who enrolled in a Tennessee college on a four-year academic scholarship but dropped out after three years of low grades. He later took a one-year surgical technician’s course at a trade school before enrolling at a community college, where he made straight A’s while taking a full course load and working two jobs.

At a friend’s suggestion, he began to investigate options to pursue pharmacy as a career. “I had no expectations,” Vesser said of his chances to be accepted into pharmacy school, although he did well on the national pharmacy entrance exam.

After applying to 11 pharmacy schools, he received eight rejection letters before receiving a Samford letter granting him an interview. “I felt it (the interview) went very badly,” said Vesser, who was surprised but delighted to receive a letter of admission to the McWhorter Class of 2010.

“I came to Samford just grateful to have a spot,” said Vesser, who said he has worked since day one to prove worthy of being accepted. “I wasn’t an easy choice to let in. By admitting me, somebody took a chance that could have backfired.”

“I’ve tried to do everything in such a way that if I had to sit across from someone who had not been accepted, that I could justify my having taken their spot,” said Vesser, whose wife, Amy, is due to give birth to their first child on Saturday.

At age 31, he is older than all but four of his classmates.  “I’ve tried to seek leadership roles in order to give back,” said Vesser, who quickly realized that his life experiences and maturity gave him a unique perspective on his academic pursuit.

Elected class president in the fall of 2006, he has led his classmates in a variety of service projects and activities. His final duties as class president will be to emcee a pharmacy awards program on Thursday and make remarks at 10 a.m. commencement on Friday.

Just in case the baby arrives early, he has videotaped his commencement remarks.

Vesser interned at a Walmart pharmacy on Highway 280 for all four years he has been at Samford, and in June, was one of 31 interns nationwide chosen to attend a leadership training program at company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

He has a job lined up at a new Walmart store in Ruckersville, Va., near his wife’s hometown of Charlottesville.

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.