Published on December 17, 2016 by Philip Poole  
Wintley Phipps speaking

Samford University graduates were encouraged to find and fulfill their destiny during winter commencement ceremonies Dec. 17.

Wintley Phipps, founder and CEO of the U.S. Dream Academy Inc., told the more than 300 graduates that they already have lived many moments of destiny. But, he said, “Moments of destiny are moments for which you were created, but not the reason for which you were created.”

Destiny is “your life’s story” based on choices—right or wrong—you make, he told the graduates. “You get to choose the main characters, the plot, the storyline and, with God’s help, the ending.”

Fame and fortune are not the reasons individuals are created, Phipps added. “The reason you were created is to grow more every day to resemble, reflect and reveal the character of God and Jesus. It is now the primary purpose for which I live: Christlikeness.”

Phipps recalled meeting the late Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, on a train, as one of his greatest moments of destiny. He learned from Colson that about 60 percent of children who end up in prison have parents who have been in prison. From that encounter, he and his wife have built a ministry of tutoring and mentoring to thousands of children of incarcerated parents.

“How exciting that we get to live for the highest purpose we were created,” he said. “We can live out the destiny for which we were created, bringing our character into harmony and oneness with God.”

Noting his surroundings, Phipps said, “The true greatness of Samford University is not in its ability to produce scientists and lawyers, but its ability to produce men and women of Christlike character.”

He asked the graduates to “encourage each other every day. Make this your life story: to resemble, reflect and reveal the character of Christ. All day. Every day. No excuses.”

Phipps, an accomplished vocalist who has been nominated for Grammy Awards, sang the 1950s ballad “I Believe” and the gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” as part his presentation, generating two standing ovations from the overflow audience of more than 2,600 in Samford’s Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center.

Degrees were granted to about 300 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates. Included in the class was 74-year-old M. O. Williams, who earned a master’s degree in secondary education and hopes to teach.

In his challenge to graduates, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said, “May your future be all you dare to dream. May you be safe, challenged and inspired.”

Three retiring faculty members were recognized for their service by Provost J. Michael Hardin, including Charles Sands III, professor of pharmacy practice, Robert J. Goodwin, professor of law, and Belle Stoddard, assistant professor of law.

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.