Published on May 18, 2012 by Philip Poole  

Lessons learned from her own experiences as an undergraduate nursing student served as the focal points of entrepreneur Sylvia Rayfield's address during May 18 commencement ceremonies at Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.

More than 130 undergraduate and graduate degrees were awarded during the ceremony, one of five being held at Samford this weekend. The ceremony also highlighted the 90th anniversary of what is now the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.

Using the theme "A Moffett Nursing Model: We're In This Together," Rayfield related examples she learned from the nursing school's namesake, who was director of what was then known as the Birmingham Baptist Hospital School of Nursing. That program became part of Samford in 1973.

Rayfield said she and her fellow students learned their first semester that "we're in this together" when they had to help staff the hospital during holiday breaks. A fellow student tutored her so that she could pass chemistry, another example of "we're all in this together."

She also noted that "relationships are vital," including the two important relationships with one's "higher spirit" and one with "ourselves."

"We all may have a different way of interacting with our higher spirit," Rayfield said. "Samford has provided for spiritual growth while you have been here. Now, you are responsible for that growth."

Rayfield said nurses cannot be a patient advocate if they do not know how to advocate for themselves. "The relationship with yourself is imperative. This means putting nutritious foods and drink into our bodies, nourishing our spirits and listening to our needs," she explained.

Citing the importance of the information learned in nursing school, Rayfield concluded "It's what you do with this information that is important. I hope it's enough to invite contradiction or at least cause enough conversation to generate new energy. We're in this together, and we need resiliency so that our own souls can grow."

In a closing challenge after diplomas had been awarded, Dean Nena Sanders encouraged the graduates to continue their learning.

"The person who graduates today and stops learning is uneducated the next day," Sanders said. "This should challenge each of you that to be successful you must be lifelong learners."

Noting that technology and other factors are constantly changing, Sanders said, "In today's world, there is no such thing as an educated person. It is vital that you must continue to learn. I hope that you will embrace the decision to be a lifelong learner."

During the ceremony, Samford Provost J. Bradley Creed recognized three nursing faculty members who are retiring at the end of the academic year: assistant professors Judy Bourrand, Barbara Money and Judith Vinzant.

Earlier in the day, bachelor's degree candidates participated in the nurse pinning and candle lighting ceremony. For that ceremony, the graduates wear traditional white nursing uniforms.

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.