Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2011-10-01


Hundreds of Samford University families came together for a weekend planned just for them. Near -perfect early fall weather greeted about 1,500 moms, dads, grandparents and siblings of Samford students for Family Weekend Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

For many parents, it was the first reunion with their student since the fall semester began in late August.

“It’s been a long six weeks,” observed David Barthel, who with his wife, Pam, drove from Memphis, Tenn., to spend time with their son, Charles. A freshman and the last of their three children to leave the nest for college, Charles is still sorely missed at home, but, his mom says, “He’s right where God wants him to be, and that makes it easier.”

The weekend was filled with events and activities that kept the Barthel family and others as busy as they chose to be. A  Friday evening reception gave parents a chance to meet the professors that their students learn from in the classroom. 

Debbie and Carl Petty of Asheville, N.C., were glad to meet Dr. Morgan Ponder, who teaches chemistry to their freshman son, Grant. Besides a general update about the class, they received helpful information from Ponder about the workings of the pre-pharmacy curriculum that Grant hopes to pursue.

The weekend was extra special for Grant because both sets of his grandparents were present:  Carl and Margaret Petty of Boca Raton, Fla., and G.D. and Doris Hensley of Asheville, N.C.

Cindy and Steve Howard from Dallas, Texas, were keen to visit their son Nathan, a freshman music major who was busy playing saxophone with the combo that provided music for the “meet and greet” on Ben Brown Plaza. They enjoyed getting to know Nathan’s academic dean, Dr. Joe Hopkins of the School of the Arts.

The Friday event enabled Karen and Ray Pugh of Montgomery, Ala., to meet their son Jordan’s freshman communication arts instructor, Kathy Flowers.  Because they have a family tradition at another Alabama school, Karen recalled being surprised when Jordan chose Samford.  “He came here in eighth grade for All-state music competition, and it made a lasting impression,” said Karen, who is sure he made the right decision. “We are here for him.”  

While in Birmingham, they looked forward to attending Sunday services with Jordan at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, where the pastor is an old friend and graduate of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School.

On Saturday, the Pugh’s enjoyed the Parents Association meeting, where they heard campus updates from Samford president Andrew Westmoreland and vice presidents Dr. Phil Kimrey and Randall Pittman. 


Westmoreland cited Samford’s recent honors, such as the high U.S. News & World Report ranking, and a record-breaking fall enrollment that includes students from all over the world. About 30 Chinese students add to the international flavor of the campus.  “Unless we’re preparing students for interaction with Asia, we’re not giving them what they need for the next decade,” said Westmoreland.

Kimrey, noting the many “freshman parents” in the room, complimented this year’s highly competitive entering class with its high grade point averages, SAT and ACT scores, and tremendous leadership skills.  “It’s incredible what your children have brought to our campus,” said Kimrey, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

Pittman, vice president for university advancement, thanked parents for their efforts in identifying potential Samford students in their towns.  “No endorsement is better than one from a satisfied family,” said Pittman, who also thanked parents for their financial gifts to the school. 

Associate director for parents programs Kelia Furr stressed that parents are always welcome at Samford. The website, with its “parents” link is an excellent way to stay connected and to learn the many ways they can be involved, she said. Those include upcoming alumni and parents events around the country, such as fall events in Nashville, Tenn., Dallas, Texas, and Montgomery.

Furr acknowledged the work of the 30-member Parents Leadership Council, led by co-chairs Sheila and Bill Akin of Nashville, Tenn.

Saturday’s Family Weekend agenda included open houses at hosted by organizations and a tailgate lunch on the quadrangle prior to the 2 p.m. football game against Gardner-Webb University.

The quadrangle was filled with people enjoying meeting their students’ friends and families. Frisbees and footballs constantly sailed overhead as impromptu games got underway.

The picturesque campus kept shutterbugs happy, especially at the statue of Mr. Ralph Beeson, where sophomore nursing major Rachael Gibson posed with her mom and dad, Beth and Charles Gibson from Atlanta, Ga.

“We enjoyed family weekend last year and knew we wanted to attend again this year,” said Beth, who especially likes that people can mix and mingle under the lunch tents. Charles is a 1977 Samford graduate.

The quadrangle crowd joined together to cheer the football team as it processed through the human “Bulldog Walk” from the student center to Seibert Stadium.

Other Family Weekend events continued on Saturday evening and Sunday.



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.