Dr. Billy Kim, chairman of the Far East Broadcasting Company of Korea and former president of the Baptist World Alliance, urged Samford University graduates to make the right choice and to rely on the power of prayer in Commencement exercises Saturday, May 19.
"Life is made up of choices," said Dr. Kim. "The choice we make determines the quality of time and life that is worth or not worth living."
Kim, whose radio network broadcasts Christian programming in 140 languages, asked the students to choose to follow Jesus. "If you choose Christ, you'll never go wrong," he said.
The Asian religion leader addressed 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 seniors from its School of the Arts and Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies---about 400 in all.
In addition to the diplomas to seniors, Samford awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Korean business and civic leader D. K. Lee, a former president of Rotary International, for his "humanitarian and civic work." Lee is chair of Bubang Techron Company, a leading manufacturer of consumer household appliances, and is chairman of the Community Chest of Korea.
Kim, who began his Christian ministry by founding a church in Seoul, Korea in 1960, stressed the power of prayer in his remarks.
"Prayer is the key to solving all of life's problems," he said. "In this world we encounter many difficult obstacles. I believe that if we have a life of prayer we will overcome whatever troubles we might face. Prayer can change your life, your family and this nation.
"It is time for God to heal this great nation," he said to a standing ovation.
Kim noted that Jesus spent much time in prayer before he entered public ministry, praying for long hours and sometimes all night.
"Prayer does not need proof, it needs practice," he said. "Today we organize, instead of agonize on our knees before God."
Kim served as president of the Baptist World Alliance from 2000 until 2005. He was introduced by Samford president Andrew Westmoreland, as "a Korean, but a citizen of the world." Kim's daughter, 1986 Samford graduate Mary Kay Kim Park, was in the audience.
Senior Riley Westmoreland, president of the Student Government Association, charged her fellow graduates to stay close to Samford as alumni by attending Homecoming, going to athletic games and other events, trying to help Samford recruit high schoolers and staying informed about the school through Facebook and Twittwer. "Another thing we can choose to do is give," she said. She committed to give $20.12 to Samford every year for the rest of her life, and urged her classmates to do the same. "It's my hope that one day I'll be able to give more---but all the money in the world couldn't cover the cost of what my time here has really been worth to me," she said.
Samford presented its top student awards at the close of the program. Kara Lynn Peal of Dallas, Ga., received the President's Cup for the highest academic average. Hannah Michelle McSween of Knoxville, Tenn., received the Velma Wright Irons Award for the second highest average. Caroline S. Noland of Boiling Springs, S.C., and Andrew Lewis Toney of Collierville, Tenn., received the John C. Pittman Spirit Award.
Samford Provost Brad Creed recognized four Samford faculty members who are retiring this year: English professors Nancy Whitt and Rod Davis, sociology professor Robin Roberts and music professor Bill Strickland. He also recognized dean of academic services and registrar Paul Aucoin, who will retire in the fall. Four other retiring faculty members were recognized during Friday commencement programs: pharmacy professor Robert Schrimsher and nursing professors Judy Bourrand, Barbara Money and Judith Vinzant.