When her name was called near the conclusion of the Commencement ceremony on Saturday morning to step to the stage to receive the President’s Cup for the highest grade point average among undergraduates, the walk represented the final steps in a journey of tragedy and hope for Kara Peal. In a message to me last week, Kara said that she first visited the campus during her senior year of high school in 2007. When Kara and her mom began their drive back home that day and her mom asked what she thought of the visit, Kara said, “I’m going to Samford.” Despite considerable financial challenges, but with the help of a generous scholarship, she enrolled in the fall of 2008. In the spring semester of her freshman year, she learned that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in October of Kara's sophomore year, one day before her forty-third birthday. In the last meaningful conversation that Kara had with her mother, she said, “I want you to graduate from Samford.” With amazing perseverance, the support of family and friends, and the grace of God, Kara fulfilled her mother’s wish. Kara says, “Looking back, I realized that I’ve been at Samford because this community has provided a place for me to not just get an education or not just survive an immensely difficult time, but to grow and flourish in the midst of the struggle.”
The world is better because of Kara Peal.