Published on May 13, 2017 by Philip Poole  
chs commencement

The importance of a Samford education and a passion for calling were recurring themes of four student speakers at Samford University’s College of Health Sciences undergraduate commencement May 12.

The four schools in the college—School of Health Professions, Ida Moffett School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy and School of Public Health—awarded 237 undergraduate degrees in one of Samford’s seven spring commencement ceremonies. CHS also awarded graduate degrees at a May 5 ceremony.

Ken Gammada, an exercise science major from Decherd, Tennessee, said his experience was “nothing short of spectacular.” He particularly noted the important influence of faculty in encouraging research and conference attendance as extensions of the classroom.

“The faculty has allowed students to experience knowledge in an applicable approach, which is divergent to the standard lecture,” he said. “Your methods of teaching are those of fine design, and I commend each of you.”

Gammada encouraged his fellow graduates to never stop learning. “As we go forth into our respective occupations, ventures and lives, keep in mind that we have yet to fully attain the spectrum surrounding excellence and professionalism.”

Lana Hunt, a nursing major from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, related a personal story in explaining her calling to be a nurse.

“Everyone has a story and a reason for pursing a degree in health care,” Hunt said. “We are all called in some way, however big or small it may seem, and this calling is what brought us to this day.”

Watching nurses help her brother when he died as an infant confirmed a calling that Hunt already had experienced.

“When I witnessed this powerful effect that nursing can having on people, I realized that the voice I heard telling me to be a nurse was from the Lord,” she added. “I wanted to encourage patients and families to not give up, and to show them the love and support they need in difficult situations.”

Mark Gilliam, a pharmacy major from Owensboro, Kentucky, said “There is no place I’d rather learn how best to serve others than here at Samford University.”

Gilliam also cited the influence of faculty on students. “We are surrounded by faculty and staff who truly care about our development as students and as people.”

Looking ahead to his fellow graduates’ next two years in pharmacy school, Gilliam said, “I’d like to impress upon you the importance of continuing to take advantage of every opportunity our wonderful school has to offer. Step out of your comfort zone. Meet as many people as you can. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you do these simple things, you will reap the rewards.”

Emily Mantooth, a nutrition and dietetics major from Birmingham, affirmed her Samford experience but said it did not come without obstacles and struggles.

“But, here was always one overarching theme that propelled us forward: our passion,” she said. “Our calling for this career path is what brought us here and carried through the last four years.

“I trust we will always hold steadfast to what we have been taught so diligently at Samford, holding our passions and our calling as our deepest treasure.”

Joshua Washington, a sports medicine major from Meridianville, Alabama, received the John C. Pittman Spirit Award. Named for a Samford alumnus and longtime trustee, the award recognizes a graduating senior who has exhibited a serious commitment to being a student and achieving academically, to honoring Christ, to personal health and involvement in student life.  Washington was one of three 2017 Pittman Award recipients.


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.