Posted by Sean Flynt on 2009-05-15

Samford's McWhorter School of Pharmacy conferred 122 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees in its 2009 Commencement today. Graduates also heard from distinguished alumnus R. Clayton McWhorter `55, Chairman of Clayton Associates and the school's chief benefactor. His 1995 gift of $10,000,000 marked the beginning of a vibrant new period in the school's 82-year history.

McWhorter noted the dramatic changes in pharmacy practice in the 55 years since he received his own Samford pharmacy degree. He also recalled his friendship with former Samford president Thomas E. Corts, who passed away earlier this year.

"His wisdom and council will be sorely missed," McWhorter said of Corts. "I might add that it was the encouragement of Dr. Corts and [former Pharmacy dean] Dr. Joe Dean that influenced my gift to Samford. I know it's been a sad time for many of us, but I believe deeply we will move forward and build on the legacy that Tom Corts left to us."

McWhorter went on to offer the graduates four pieces of professional wisdom-"find a mentor," "be prepared," "act like an owner" and "give back".

"I am sure many of you have already found mentors among your university professors," McWhorter said, "and you will be amazed at how their teachings will stay with you over the years. When you get your first job look around for a mentor, someone you admire who commands your respect. Look for someone to pattern your style after. Who you select will be very important because they can and will influence your style and behavior as you move through your career."

McWhorter said he was frustrated in the early years of his career and thought he would never want to be a company president. "I did not feel the rewards were worth the sacrifices, and I was on the verge of making my intentions known to my superiors," he said. But then one of his mentors encouraged him to bide his time and prepare himself for that role even if he might eventually reject such an offer. He followed the advice, "and, as you may have guessed by now, the job was eventually offered to me. But instead of turning it down, I accepted! It would not have happened if I had not been prepared for the opportunity."

Experience with several successful companies led McWhorter to conclude that thinking like a company owner-no matter one's actual position-can bring professional reward. "If you think of yourself as an owner and not just an employee, you will get to work a little earlier and stay a little later," he said. You will see your horizons expand and your fears diminish. You will think in concepts not mechanics. If you think and act like an owner, your career will flourish and your life will change."

"No matter what paths your careers take," McWhorter said, "you have a responsibility to be good community-minded citizens, and that means giving something back to the communities where you live and work." He added that graduates shouldn't wait to begin giving back, and shouldn't feel that dollars are the only currency community service. Money might come to them later, but, for now, they can give their time, their love and themselves. "Start by dedicating this occasion to your family," he said. "Let them know that their support means something to you. Do not let today go by without expressing your gratitude and love."

"You in this room must position yourselves to be on the cutting edge of your personal preparation for the future," McWhorter concluded. "You cannot change the past, but you can change the future and instill in your mind, and the minds of the people over whom you will have influence, the necessity to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow."

Other speakers at the event included: Andrew Westmoreland, President, Samford University; J. Bradley Creed, Provost and Executive Vice President, Samford University; Charles D. Sands III, Dean and Associate Professor, McWhorter School of Pharmacy; Robert Smith, Jr., Associate Professor, Beeson Divinity School; Amy E. Broeseker, Interim Chair and Associate Professor, McWhorter School of Pharmacy; and Michael D. Hogue, Experiential Program Director and Assistant Professor, McWhorter School of Pharmacy.

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.