Published on May 11, 2018 by Philip Poole  
ian pope
Ian Pope, one of the featured speakers for the annual graduate prayer breakfast.

Themes of friendship, faith and scholarship were the focus of Samford University’s annual graduate prayer breakfast May 11. Graduates, faculty and family members gathered for what has become an important tradition of spring commencement weekend.

Jonathan Waugh, Department of Cardiopulmonary Sciences, encouraged the graduates to be open to friendships that are supportive, regardless of differences, with an emphasis on Christian friendship.

“To have friends and to be one, we must open ourselves to being known,” he said. “Like everything else, the end goal of friendship should be God and his glory.”

Lilla Bea Granger, a Brock Scholar and business major from Pike Road, Alabama, quoted American poet Robert Frost to illustrate the importance of her Samford experience.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” Granger said. “I am glad I took the road less traveled.”

Noting that the class first gathered “on this beautiful hillside” four years ago, Granger added, “We are now equipped with a wonderful education and hopes and dreams of making the world a better place. Our Samford story, one of academic excellence and Judeo-Christian values, will always be at the core of who we are as individuals.”

Ian Pope, a history major from Clarksville, Tennessee, referred to the oft-used phrase at Samford that “we sit in the shade of trees we did not plant” to reflect on his faith journey.

“I came to Samford seeking an education, which I obtained, but I leave bearing the fruits of others who have invested in me,” Pope said. “I have been resting in the shade over my college career. My hope is that I have created some shade for those to come.”

Charlotte Brammer, associate professor of English and director of the Communication Resource Center, told graduates of the impact her Aunt Geneva made on her faith journey. She was a woman of strong faith who lived by example.

“Establish a rhythm to your faith journey,” Brammer told graduates. “Find and build a community of faith. Encourage others to join your community of faith. Find a faith mentor – someone who will inspire and embolden you to grow in your faith. Then, mentor others.

“Make it happen wherever you go.”

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland told graduates about the most influential person in his life, former college president Ben Elrod with whom Westmoreland served at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.

Westmoreland related that he recently traveled to Arkansas to spend time with the ailing Elrod and told the graduates that in the two hours they spent together he was able to "say everything that I wanted to say.”

“There is no better time than commencement to tell people in your life how grateful you are for what they have poured into your life,” Westmoreland said. “As you live your lives and in the moment when you need to say those things to a friend or family member or coworker, say it. Don’t wait.

“Can you imagine how much better our lives and the lives of the people in our circle would be if we would say it? You can do the right thing. Do what I’ve asked you to do.”

Following the breakfast, graduates gathered with Westmoreland for a group photo on the steps on Harwell G. Davis Library and then retraced the walk along Centennial Walk that is part of freshman orientation.

The prayer breakfast is hosted by Westmoreland and coordinated by the Office of Spiritual Life.

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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.