Samford Welcomes 1,000-Plus Families to Family Weekend
More than 1,000 families, representing states “from sea to shining sea,” are enjoying reuniting with their Samford University students at many events this weekend, Sept. 30–Oct. 2.
“It has been a joy to welcome families back to campus, and especially to see parents tailgating by state,” said Samford Parent Programs Director Susan Doyle. Parents Association chapters from nine states hosted tailgate tents on the campus quadrangle on Saturday.
The tailgates, she said, help parents get to know and connect with each other. “It is heartwarming. Relationships are what make Samford so special,” Doyle said.
Family weekend attendees represented states located from California to New Hampshire, Arizona to Florida, and as far north as Minnesota, she said, adding that the event grows each year.
Friday’s events included a Parent Academy with classes on a variety of subjects, a welcome reception hosted by Samford President Andrew Westmoreland and his wife, Jeanna, vespers, and a women’s soccer match.
On Friday, Cheri and John Kendrick of Marietta, Georgia, registered while their son, John, a sophomore business major, was in class. They were looking forward to attending Parent Academy classes before taking John to dinner and to a mall. “He says he needs to go shopping,” Cheri Kendrick said.
Shopping, it turns out, was a frequent request made by male and female students while they had their parents in town.
The Kendricks chose courses on the Biblical plague narratives and astronomy from among 19 Parent Academy choices that for the first time this year included offerings from graduate programs in law, divinity and pharmacy.
Jandie Gill, a Samford mom from Orlando, Florida, enjoyed leading her family of six in a popular scavenger hunt that had many families looking high and low around the quadrangle for 30 images pictured on a card. Her son, Austin Peak, is a freshman biochemistry/premed major.
“The ‘D.’ was the hardest to find,” she said, referring to the initial in the lettering on Thomas D. Russell Hall. Later, after attending the reception and touring the new College of Health Sciences facilities, she happily announced that she had hit 10,000 steps on her Fitbit — thanks in part, she noted, to the scavenger hunt.
However, the scavenger hunt prize — a Step Sing weekend package including tickets, two-night hotel stay and dinner for four — went to the Randy Johnston family of Brentwood, Tennessee.
At the College of Health Sciences, freshman nursing major Abigail Kendrick led her parents, Kevin and Lisa Kendrick of Charlotte, North Carolina, on a tour of the buildings she is getting to know well. “This is where I eat lunch, study and then go to class,” she pointed out, adding that she chose Samford because of the nursing program.
Families overflowed Hodges Chapel for the choral vespers service presented by Samford School of the Arts.
Samford Legacy Continues
At Saturday’s Parents Association breakfast, Department of Theatre and Dance students presented a skit that highlighted milestones in the school’s 175th history, including its 1841 founding in Marion, Alabama. One performer represented parent Heather Helms, who has eight children with a Samford pedigree.
Samford Alumni Association president Todd Carlisle, Class of 1988 and Cumberland School of Law Class of 1991, reviewed the history of the storied Sherman Oak tree in Samford tradition. He introduced a new Samford legacy tradition by inviting parents who attended Samford to pin a gold oak leaf lapel pin on their student. The students then returned the gesture by “pinning” their parents.
Several multigeneration Samford families participated, including Doyle and her father, W.M. Todd, and her daughter, Bailey, a Samford senior.
Samford staff member Glenn Schneider pinned his mother, retired employee Virginia Schneider, and his two daughters, Hannah, a 2013 graduate, and Emily, a freshman. Glenn Schneider and his mother received degrees together in 1982.
Westmoreland noted that the phrase “unparalleled love of God” was repeated often during the breakfast program. “We have seen it played out at Samford for 175 years,” he said. “Everyone in this room has been a beneficiary of that love through the centuries.”
He noted that his often stated philosophy, “to waste nothing,” especially refers to not wasting the lives that are entrusted to us. Investments in each other are our messages to the future we will never see, he noted. “Our children will be our messages to the future.”
Parent Leadership Council member Scott Bashrum of Frisco, Texas, explained the Samford Parents Scholarship Fund. The first scholarship was presented last year to a family that will be forever changed and grateful for the timely and critical support, he said.
On behalf of the leadership council, Bashrum presented Westmoreland with an oak tree sapling that will be planted on campus.
Samford parents Efrim and Bea Moore were among many enjoying the breakfast program. But hands down, Efrim Moore said, the highlight for him so far was the morning Prayer Walk they had shared with other parents earlier.
“If nothing else, this was worth being here,” he said, holding a map that pinpoints various prayer stops across campus. He was so impressed with the first campus prayer walk during his daughter Joi’s summer orientation session that he hung a copy on the wall of his Sunday school classroom at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
“My class members pray for Samford each Sunday morning,” Moore said. Joi is a freshman journalism and mass communication major.
Saturday’s tailgate on the quad event featured 39 tents representing campus organizations as well as parent chapters. Food was abundant and often reflected regional pride, as with the Texans and their pecan pies, cookies in the shape of the Lone Star state, chips and salsa, and Blue Bell ice cream, which had its start in their state.
Most state chapters also had cleverly designed T-shirts that left no doubt what geographical region they were proudly representing.
Samford’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 012 occupied a popular spot with its scholarship give-away competition. Competitors fashioned paper airplanes and tossed them across a long “landing strip” of construction netting, explained cadet wing commander Skyler Graham, a senior biochemistry major from Arab, Alabama. At the end of the tailgate event, the person who had tossed a plane the farthest would receive a $500 Samford scholarship.
Samford parents Michelle and Mark Lauria of Orlando, Florida, enjoyed seeing their daughter, Courtney, a freshman education major. Noting that Samford is the perfect college fit for Courtney, they agreed that because she is having a good experience, they are as well. They especially like the nurturing environment that Samford provides in the classroom and otherwise.
“It feels like family every time we’re here,” Mark Lauria said.
Family weekend events also featured a Saturday afternoon football game against Wofford, which Samford won, 28–26, and a hymn sing and soccer match, both on Sunday.
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.