It will be my privilege in May to offer the "official handshake" to Taylor Hancock as she walks across the stage during the commencement ceremony for the Brock School of Business.  No doubt, it will be a special day for Taylor and her family, but it will pale in comparison to an event that took place on January 20 in her home church.  Taylor's mother, Darlene Hancock, wrote to me last week to convey the story.

"It was my husband's dream to see his little girl graduate from college.  He had been diagnosed in December 2010 with an extensive stage four lung cancer.  Although his initial response to treatment was extremely positive and he went into a short period of remission, the cancer returned with a vengeance and spread to other areas of his body rapidly.  On January 10 of this year, we were told that it did not appear that my husband would survive until May for the graduation ceremony.  He had been asking prayer for his situation in his Sunday School class.  On Tuesday, January 17, his Sunday School teacher contacted Samford University and asked for help in arranging a surprise ceremony at our church so that my husband could see Taylor graduate college.  In the words of the Sunday School teacher, 'I expected that God would open any doors that needed opening.  What I didn't expect is that there would be no doors to open.'

"He (the Sunday School teacher) explained the situation and was told that the service could be done on Friday of that same week.  Three days later, on January 20, Dean Finch and Professor Carson from the Brock School of Business were in our church with a certificate attesting to Taylor's planned graduation, and a cap and gown.  This was a complete surprise to my husband.  Professor Carson spoke very personalized words of high praise for my daughter and Dean Finch addressed my husband personally with uplifting words of encouragement with regard to how my husband had prepared and equipped Taylor to succeed in life.  Many of our family, friends and church family were able to attend.  Several of Taylor's friends from Samford were also there.  This was the last time my husband left the house and he passed away eight days later on January 28.  If the ceremony had been put off even until the next Monday, he would not have been able to attend.  The sensitivity and sense of urgency that was given to this request could not have been more appropriate.

"My family received a precious gift that day that can never be measured.  Even if the Lord had allowed my husband to live until May, he would never have heard such specific personalized words at a traditional ceremony.  The decision to send our daughter to Samford was a costly one that met with most of our friends and family questioning the wisdom of such a decision with regard to the costs and our personal financial circumstances.  Over the years, this decision has been reaffirmed several times but never more than on January 20.  Yes it was a costly decision to send our daughter to Samford University, but that day, it became a 'priceless' one.  The memories from that day will live on forever in our hearts.  I just wanted to personally share with you the details of this blessing.  I pray that God continues to bless Samford University for many years to come."

The world is better because our people live out the core value of "service to God, to family, to one another, and to the community."