On Friday morning, August 22, about 700 freshmen arrived at Samford University with possessions and loving family members in tow. By early afternoon, each new student had relocated vast quantities of clothing, personal items and even some furniture from vehicles to dorm rooms.
At the end of the day, parents were gently told that it was time for them to go home.
“All good things must come to an end. Do your last hugs,” Samford president Andrew Westmoreland told parents at Move-in Day’s final program, which signaled time for students to go about their Connections weekend activities and for parents to make their own plans.
Westmoreland told the students that although their life stories began many years ago, their new stories begin now. “You can hit the re-set button and determine that you will be better than ever,” he said, encouraging them to make their life a “virtuous, Christ-centered story.”
The morning hours were spent moving into residence halls where the new students will live their freshman year. Anticipation and excitement were at high levels.
“I’m pumped,” said Spencer Geerlings, a health sciences major and University Fellow from Newnan, Ga., who feels good about his college choice. “Samford has everything I need in terms of what I want to do in the future,” he said.
His roommate, Brandon Regan of Douglasville, Ga., agrees. “I liked Samford from the beginning, and especially after orientation, when I met many new people,” said Regan, who looks forward to a new independence. “It’s going to be a blast.”
The two are former classmates at Landmark Christian School.
Unlike the longtime friends from Georgia, new roommates Madison Kross and Shelby Lenderman had been face-to-face only once before Move-in Day.
The two met through the Samford Facebook “mingle” site. “We texted a lot, and discovered we had everything in common,” Lenderman said of their decision to be roommates.
“We’ve been best friends since January 20, our ‘friend-iversary,’” said Kross, a nursing major from Macon, Ga. “Shelby shared her testimony, and we connected through our love for doing overseas missions.”
Lenderman’s parents, missionaries Cristy and Brad Lenderman, drove from their home in Knoxville, Tenn., to enroll their only child at Samford, but will return to the mission field in Honduras next week.
Kross’ parents, Cindy and Jeff Kross, are move-in veterans. Madison is their third child to enroll in college and this move, at least logistically, was the easiest, said Cindy Kross. Still, she said, Madison is their baby. “There might be tears,” she predicted about the final leave-taking.
The carefully packed vehicles and some pull-behind trailers were unloaded quickly with the able help of many Samford volunteers and area church members. Helpful Samford faculty members and administrators included president Westmoreland and his wife, Jeanna Westmoreland.
Many gallons of cold water, iced tea and lemonade provided welcome hydration on a day with temperatures that reached the high 90s.
Freshman Frank Jordan and his parents, April and Chris Jordan, arrived from Palm Harbor, Fla., in a truck towing the car that Frank will drive at Samford.
More than about saving the tire tread or gasoline, April Jordan explained, it was about the family “wanting to be together” and to share quality time on the 572-mile drive north.
The family made the trip on Thursday, after Frank said goodbyes to his church youth group on Wednesday evening. The freshman history major and his Smith Hall suitemate, Alec Hersh, have been leaders of their youth group at Clearwater Community Church.
Freshman Jessica Ray’s father, Doug Ray, proudly donned his “Samford Dad” tee shirt for the occasion. “Jessica bought it when we were here this summer for orientation and gave it to him for Father’s Day,” explained her mom, Tiffany Ray. The family is from Alpharetta, Ga.
“Today is a happy day,” said Jessica, who plans to major in early childhood education. “I felt that Samford was the place I needed to be, and God truly opened doors for me to be here.”
“It’s a God thing,” agreed her parents.
The Connections weekend schedule for freshmen includes a Saturday afternoon ice cream social at the Samford president’s home and a worship service on Sunday morning.
Fall semester classes will begin on Monday, Aug. 25. A total enrollment of about 4,900 is expected.