Published on May 17, 2013 by Philip Poole  
Kenny Sanders at podium

Using the resources available was a common theme of speakers at May 17 commencement ceremony for Samford University's McWhorter School of Pharmacy. The ceremony was the first of five similar events during Samford's spring commencement weekend.

Kenny Sanders, president of the Alabama Pharmacy Association, was the primary speaker challenged the 125 doctor of pharmacy graduates to set their limits as high as possible.

Noting the changing landscape of pharmacy and his own career path, Sanders said, "Don't assume that where you start is where you will finish. You are going to have a wide variety of opportunities as pharmacists. If you keep your eyes open and seek opportunities, they will present themselves."

Sanders asked the graduates to stay actively engaged in professional associations as they being their careers.

"There are those who do not think pharmacists are that important," he said. "If you don't believe me, you should walk the halls of the [state capital] for a few days. So, I ask you to stay as involved as possible, even if that is only as little as paying your annual membership dues."

Sanders also stressed the important resource of relationships, including those built during pharmacy school.

"At this point in your life, you have built a wealth of relationships," he said. "Continue to cultivate and strengthen healthy relationships. You will be amazed at how a contact or professional relationship from years ago can be a resource to help at some point.

Video: Samford Commencement 2013

Class president Anthony Bolus from Vestavia Hills, Ala., also stressed the importance of relationships and resources built while students.

"I challenge us to be the most we can be in whatever environment we may be in," Bolus said. "We must never forget where we come from. We need to step down from our pedestals and interact with our employees and our patients."

Encouraging classmates to maintain a strong faith and belief in God, Bolus said, "Life is difficult. Many obstacles will come our way. The only way you can get through those rough times is by knowing that God always is with you. And, you have a family and friends here at Samford to support you."

Retired associate dean and professor Susan Alverson reflected on her own struggles with cancer while many of the graduates were students and how she learned to rely on two resources.

"You know that you are the one who had to study, who had to take that test, who had to find a way to get up in the morning, go to class and conquer all that material," Alverson said. "You are the first resource for yourself."

She encouraged the graduates to choose a life of self-sufficiency. "It won't be easy. It will be different next week when you're not a student, and you have to redefine who you are."

In an emotional moment, Alverson recalled when she received her diagnosis and heard the words from her doctor, "You are going to die." The subsequent experiences with cancer and recovery helped her deepen her faith and reliance on God, whom she said was the second important resource available to the graduates.

"Your circumstances, as you go through life, will cause you to rethink your relationship with God," she said. "With God, your life will be rich, it will be full, it will have meaning. The tragedies you face in life will be framed by his comfort and purpose."

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland recognized pharmacy Dean Charles D. Sands III, who recently announced his retirement as dean.

"You are a valued friend and colleague and an inspiration," Westmoreland said to Sands, who is returning to the mission field in the fall where he served for many years before joining the McWhorter faculty in 1997.

The ceremony concluded with the traditional "Oath of a Pharmacist" by the graduates.

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.