May 22, 2013
Faith Will Help You Soar, Samford Graduates Told
Samford University graduated about 900 seniors during commencement exercises in May. The largest ceremony was on Saturday, May 18, for seniors in the School of the Arts, Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies, and Samford's largest school, the Howard College of Arts and Sciences.
Sixteenth Street Foundation president Rev. Carolyn Maull McKinstry advised those graduates to have faith in God, in themselves and in others.
In life, as at Samford, there will always be encouragers around to give you a "big push" to fly, she said. And faith, she said, "Will not only enable you to fly after you have been pushed, but will enable you to soar with wings of eagles--high, high into the sky."
McKinstry spoke to an audience of more than 5,000 in Samford's Pete Hanna Center.
A Birmingham native, McKinstry is a lifelong member of the city's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and was present in 1963 when members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the church. Today, she is known worldwide as an itinerant messenger of the Gospel, engaging in a ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Samford's Beeson Divinity School, and is a member of the university's Board of Overseers.
During the Commencement program, Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland presented McKinstry with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of a life "given to hope, not anger, reconciliation, not destruction; the path of God, not the path of despair; love, not hate; humility, not arrogance."
In her remarks, McKinstry noted that in 50 years the city of Birmingham has undergone extensive transformation.
"Not just in ways we can see, but in ways not visible to the eye. We still stand tall as a beacon of hope and as a city whose redemptive power and influence continues to be felt around the state, the nation and the world," she said.
McKinstry underscored the importance of faith in the lives of the new graduates.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God has a plan for our lives, she said, and God will cause all things to work together for good. "Many things are impossible with man, but all things are possible with God to them that believe."
"Faith in yourself is important--especially when no one else shares your vision and dreams," she said, citing a quotation by Maryanne Williamson that states: When we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
And, have faith in others, she advised. "When we look for the best in others, that is what we get. When we give our best, we receive the best in return."
McKinstry said she feels the nation is losing a sense of community and connectedness. "If civilization is to survive, we must re-teach the 'neighbor theology,' and cultivate the science of human relationships--the ability of all peoples, of all kinds to live together, in the same world of peace," she said.
Westmoreland presented Samford's top student awards to: Jordan Douglas Ross of Collierville, Tenn., the President's Cup for the highest academic average; Justin Kyle Young of Tupelo, Miss., the Velma Wright Irons Award for the second highest average; and Jane Marie Hutcheson of Montgomery, Ala., the John C. Pittman Spirit Award.
The Samford president recognized Birmingham businessman, philanthropist and community leader Dr. Shelley Stewart as an alumnus honoris causa, making him an honorary member of the class of 2013. Westmoreland cited the president and chief executive officer of o2 Ideas corporate communications firm for his "service to community and country, and commitment to the cause of education."
Senior Class president Rebecca C. Price, noting that commencement marks a new beginning, recalled her high school graduation and the fears of the new beginning that was college. "But remember how well our last new beginning turned out. Let's make this new beginning even better than the last," Price told her classmates.
Graduation exercises for Samford's Brock School of Business, Cumberland School of Law, Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing and McWhorter School of Pharmacy were held on Friday, May 17. Graduates of Beeson Divinity School received diplomas in a graduation and consecration service on May 8.
During the programs eight faculty members were introduced as retiring this year: Dr. Myralyn Allgood, Joe Blackburn, Ken Brazil, Dr. Jon Clemmensen, Charlotte Coleman, Chris Gillespie, Dr. Penny Marler and Jack Nelson.
Commencement weekend activity also included a graduation prayer breakfast honoring all seniors and other events.
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