Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2011-05-13


Many Samford University graduating seniors began a series of Commencement weekend events with a prayer breakfast in their honor Friday, May 13.

It was a time to gather, perhaps for a final time, to embrace thoughts on the scholarship, friendships and faith that have been part of their college experience. Faculty, staff and students took turns sharing comments, scripture reading and prayer.

Speaking on scholarship, family studies professor Clara Gerhardt noted that education had come more easily for some students than for others. But for all, she said, “Your education will serve as a basis for lifelong learning.  It will be the basis to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”

 The Samford motto, “For God , for Learning, forever, she said, underscores that at Samford, “We link the Christian path with the path of scholarship.”

Graduating biology major Ashley Spann cited scripture from Proverbs that connects wisdom with understanding. “The Bible is clear that we cannot have one without the other,” said Spann, an award winning student cancer researcher who credits Samford with equipping her to pursue her goal of one day making a change in society. 

“Each one of us has been taught well in the way of Christ, and we have learned that wherever we go we can use what we have learned to the betterment of man,” said Spann, who is from Douglasville, Ga.

Samford women’s basketball coach Mike Morris directed some of his comments on friendship to the male students at the breakfast. Compared to women, he said, men “don’t have a lot to go on” in the friendship realm.  “It comes more natural for girls.”

He encouraged the males, as they age, to develop friendships with other guys. For men and women, he said, true friends “face in the same direction, and have the same goals.”  A true friend is the first person you go to when you need help without delay or question, and is also the first person you want to tell good, special news. “Friendship is a sacred commitment,” he said.

John David Corwin, a classics major from Montgomery, Ala., said that his friends have shaped and sharpened each other on topics both serious and trivial, whether about caring, being humble, or loosening up. 

“They have been there for the good times and difficult ones, but now we have our own path to follow, and as we go, remember how they’ve shaped us,” said Corwin. “We will honor our friends each time we show compassion, humility or help someone.  If we live in the ways our friends have shaped us, they will be ever present with us.”

Speaking on faith, library reference and instruction chair Harold Goss said that while some graduates are full of hope as they start careers, marriages or graduate school, others may not know what the future holds.   Either way, he said, his advice is referenced in John chapter 15: “Abide in me, and I in you.”

 “Totally depend on God if you want to go the way Jesus did,” advised Goss.  “If you live in that way, you can become a generous, forgiving person.”  You may still suffer, he said, but with unexplainable grace, and not be consumed with yourself, but will love God and others.

He advised graduates to totally depend on God as they pursue their future endeavors.  The new graduates who don’t depend on God as they pursue their future endeavors, he suggested, will find emptiness rather than fulfillment.

Communication studies major Meredith Howard noted the many memories and stories she has shared with her fellow seniors, and how each one has impacted the other.  “These four years have been a journey for me, but I know how much more I have to learn and grow in faith,” said the Roswell, Ga. resident, adding that faith is a journey.

“It is an ongoing journey, but faith carries us through that journey.  Faith has given us the ability to get through the past four years, but the journey continues on, and so will the faith.”

The speakers’ remarks were supplemented by scripture readings and prayer by Reese Armstrong, a graphic design major from Selma, Ala.,  on scholarship; Madison Hall, a history major from Birmingham, on friendship; and Keighlee McCaslin, an education major from Spartanburg, S.C., on faith.

Vocalist Sarah Cottingham, a music major from Roswell, Ga., and guitarist Brett Anderson, an athletic training major from Chester, Ohio, provided special music.  Sport administration major Dan Hall of Madison, Miss., gave the invocation.  Communication studies major Terra Garmon of Gadsden, Ala., and marketing major Matt Galloway of Trussville, Ala., led the responsive closing prayer.

President Andrew Westmoreland acknowledged the faculty and staff who joined the 300-plus students at the breakfast. He noted the special calling that each feels to be involved with the students’ education.

Speaking for the educators and administrators, he told the students, “You will remain in our lives.  As you go out into the world of unknowns, you take our greatest aspirations and our love for you. 

“It will be our great joy to say that we knew you and we will cherish that relationship. We wish for you the very best in life,” he said.

Following the breakfast program in the main dining hall, fondly known as the caf’, the seniors assembled for one last group photo on the library steps.  They then took a final sentimental stroll together down Centennial Walk.


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.