Vehicles began arriving early Friday bearing state license plates from near and far. Some pulled small trailers. Several proudly declared "Samford Bound" in large letters on rear view windows, and one was labeled "Ashley's Luggage Van." It was freshman move-in day at Samford University.
"It's a big day," said Jim Mullins, who with his wife, Julie, was helping their daughter Mallory unpack in Lena Vail Davis Hall for first-year women. The pre-pharmacy major from Panama City, Fla., is the last of their three children to leave for college, but the first to attend Samford. "We came for orientation, and knew this was the place," Mullins said of Mallory's decision to attend Samford.
Freshman Anna Williams of St. Louis, Mo., had move-in help from her mom, Sue Williams, and older sister, Abby. Although mom had earlier sent Abby off to school at Wheaton College, it wasn't necessarily easier depositing Anna at Samford. "This is my baby," said Sue.
Anna and her new roommate, Blakely Lloyd from Auburn, Ala., were soon making beds and stowing items in their room. Although they had only communicated by Facebook and not planned their exact decor, they were pleased with the result. "We didn't get match-y, but it works well together," Anna said of the black and white themed bed coverings and pink accents. Anna plans to study journalism and mass communication. Blakely will major in history.
The Williams family had a pleasant surprise when the Connections leader who greeted them turned out to be from their hometown. Tony Thompson, a junior biology major, had attended a St. Louis high school near Anna's.
Thompson is among almost 100 Connections leaders who have been on campus for several weeks making plans for the new students' arrival. This year's freshman class, the third largest in history, includes students from 28 states and 11 foreign countries.
For many families, move-in day was a multi-generational activity. Sam Wudel of Brentwood, Tenn., had the help of his parents, Carlyn and Jim Wudel, Jr., and his grandparents, Helen and Jim Wudel, Sr., of Nashville, Tenn.
Since Sam is their oldest grandson and the first to leave for college, move-in day was not an event they could miss, said Helen Wudel, who was the first female law school graduate at the University of South Dakota.
Sam's mom and dad expertly helped their son, who will major in business, unpack and get settled in Smith Hall for first-year men. "It is a rite of passage to live in a dorm," said Jim, Jr., who likes that Samford is near their hometown, but not too close. "Birmingham is convenient, but not in Nashville's backyard."
Carlyn is excited about the new phase of her son's life. "I'm good with it. It's a new adventure," said Carlyn, who is amazed at the number of Nashville-area people with Samford ties. "We've never met anyone who had a bad Samford experience."
Friday-morning travelers between Tupelo, Miss., and Birmingham didn't have to wonder where an eastbound silver SUV with Mississippi plates was headed. "Samford Bound" was clearly written in bold letters on the rear window of the vehicle that was bringing Brittany Littlejohn to Samford.
"We surprised her this morning. It was our farewell note to her," said Brittany's mom, Michelle Henderson. The new freshman's sister, grandmother and two aunts who helped decorate the car had also lovingly written "We're proud of you. We love you." on the side windows. Brittany is the first of seven siblings in the family to leave home for college.
At least one member of each freshman's family seemed to be a designated photographer and chronicler of first-day memories. Thanks to social media, images from move-in day and other Connections weekend events can be shared with friends and family back home and elsewhere.
Photos can be tweeted to @samfordu or #samfordwelcomeback, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New students and their parents convened Friday afternoon for Family Welcome program in Wright Center.
Samford president Andrew Westmoreland told the new students about a William Faulkner quote that differentiates between monuments and footprints: "A monument only says that at least I got this far, while a footprint says this is where I was."
"You are given an opportunity to re-set your batteries and sink your feet into this campus and beyond," said Dr. Westmoreland, urging the freshmen to "get out there and start making some footprints."
Guest speaker Caz McCaslin, president and founder of Upward Sports Programs, reminded the students that their parents have given them a fantastic opportunity and that they should take advantage of it by making good choices, starting now.
"What every parent and faculty member will say about your decisions is, 'I'm leaving it up to you,'" said McCaslin, father of two Samford graduates and one current Samford student.