Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2014-08-26

A fast-paced opening convocation of the fall semester at Samford University featured recognition of student leaders, special donors and teaching award winner William P. Collins. It also offered a good look at lessons gleaned from Samford president Andrew Westmoreland’s favorite Bible chapter.

“I am challenged by it every day,” Westmoreland said of Romans chapter 12, which will be a running theme of fall semester programs planned by Samford’s office of spiritual life.

Westmoreland shared six lessons from the scripture: 

Raise your standards. The words to be “not conformed to this world, but transformed,” should be especially relevant to people who come to an institution that claims to be Christ-centered, such as Samford, he said. “If we expect to make a difference in the world, we have to raise our standards of intellectual firepower,” Westmoreland said.

Put others first. Westmoreland said he was reminded of this in the recent loss of Samford student Trevelyn Campbell, who died in a car accident on Aug. 22. “People have said that she put others first. It was a defining quality for her, and it should be for us,” Westmoreland said.

Always show respect to others. “Do this whether you agree with them or not.” Samford food court employee Paul Ming, he noted, always has a smile and a kind word to share. “He shows respect for all of his customers.”

Help develop talent. “We all have different gifts, and it often takes others to pull out those gifts. To help develop that talent is a remarkable thing,” he said, citing Howard College of Arts and Sciences assistant dean Dana Basinger as being “world class” at it. “The world needs every bit of talent we can develop.”

Practice the virtues. “We need to work on this, and the way to do it is practice discipline in life.”

And lastly: 

Never give up. “The scripture says to overcome evil with good. We face a lot of obstacles and challenges in life. There are reasons every day to quit. But, every morning is a do-over, and we have a new opportunity each day,” Westmoreland said.

Inviting employee Ivy Alexander to the stage, the president explained that her name kept popping up when he asked Samford colleagues to name an exemplar of Romans 12. Describing the administrative assistant for the departments of history and political science as “loyal, dedicated, wise, organized, kind, able and intelligent,” he asked Alexander what helps her live out those qualities.

“As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to lead a life of excellence and to excel in whatever we are called to do,” responded Alexander, a Judson College graduate who holds a master of social work degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

The convocation program included the presentation of the John H. Buchanan Award for Teaching Excellence to longtime political science professor Collins. Finalists for the award were nominated by members of the Class of 2014. 

Westmoreland also recognized a group of alumni and friends who have qualified for the Samford Founders Circle of givers. The donors have each supported Samford with their gifts for at least 35 years with combined giving in excess of $20 million. “Without them, the Samford we know today would not exist,” Westmoreland said.

He introduced Harriett and Chriss Doss and Bill and Marynell Ford as new members of the Founders Circle, and Sigurd and Sara Bryan, Ruby Miriam Bissett and Mary Hudson, who have all supported Samford for 40 years. Bissett, of Sarasota, Fla., a 1944 graduate, is celebrating her 70th anniversary as a Samford alumna.

The convocation audience was also invited to applaud the many student leaders who hold roles of responsibility and influence in various capacities in sports, organizations and numerous other areas of campus involvement.

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. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 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 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.