Published on November 11, 2017 by Philip Poole  

The theme of “One Samford, Forever Samford” permeated an evening celebration of tradition and achievement Nov. 10 as six Samford University graduates were honored for their achievements during the university’s 2017 homecoming weekend.

About 150 alumni and guests renewed the tradition of alumni returning to campus for a candlelight dinner that dates to the 1860s. The event, held for decades at spring commencement, was revived 14 years ago at homecoming.

The highlight of the evening was recognition of the 2017 alumni award recipients.

Carolyn Maull McKinstry ’09, an inaugural honoree in 2016, introduced the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year awards to Amy Jo Osborn ’02 of Birmingham, and Jade ’93 and Shelah Hubbard Acker ’96 of Uganda. The Ackers were overseas but had been honored earlier in the year during a visit to campus.

Lauren Lunceford Dunnam ’09, ’11 was recognized as Outstanding Young Alumna by Houston Estes ’04, the 2014 honoree.

Joel Brooks ’99 of Birmingham was presented by Karen Duncan Carlisle ’88, a 2015 Alumna of the Year, and Stephen Dillard ’92 of Macon, Georgia, was recognized by 2016 Alumnus of the Year Keith Herron ’86.

Recognition videos:

Lauren Lunceford Dunnam

Joel Brooks

Stephen Dillard

Jade & Shelah Acker

Amy Jo Osborn

In talking about the university’s current Forever Samford campaign, Jason Long ’00 of Birmingham related a story about his early days as a Samford undergraduate. Discouraged, he called his father wanting to come home.

Long said his father asked him “How do you see people at Samford? If you see them as family, there is absolutely nothing that you would not do for family.” That conversation changed his life for Samford, Long added.

He stays involved with Samford because “at the end of the day, we are all family. When you see Samford as family, there is no reason you should not want to give back.”

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland continued the family theme and Samford’s 176-year history, quoting from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is one acorn.”

“One acorn 176 years ago began all of this,” Westmoreland said. “I am thrilled about what transpired at the beginning, in the intervening and the boundless possibilities of what is happening now and in the future.

“We can nurture that which we find, and we can work diligently so that miracles can happen in lives. Let’s look on each other the way that God looks on us.”

The candlelight dinner and awards ceremony were part of a weekend full of homecoming events expected to draw thousands back to campus.


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.