Published on December 18, 2021 by Holly Gainer  
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Samford University honored 322 graduates who either earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree during two winter commencement ceremonies on campus on Saturday, Dec. 18. Both were held in the Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center.

The first ceremony was held for 161 students who graduated from one of the four schools within the College of Health Sciences: the School of Health Professions, Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy and the School of Public Health. The ceremony also marked the graduation of the first class of the Physician Assistant Studies program in the School of Health Professions. Of the inaugural class of 36 students, more than 75% have already been offered jobs.

“The graduation of our inaugural physician assistant studies cohort is a great achievement,” said Paul Harrelson, physician assistant studies assistant professor, chair and program director. “This cohort is composed of 36 young professionals who have worked incredibly hard to reach this special milestone. Our faculty looks forward to watching each of them fulfill their calling to provide empathetic patient care to the communities in which they will serve.”

Danny Wood, a member of Samford’s Board of Trustees and the recently retired pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, gave the commencement address where he encouraged the graduates to follow four rules as they begin the next chapter of their lives: seek the Lord first, serve others, stretch yourself and savor relationships.

“Savor (to delight in) every second you spend with the people you love. I would wager that the best memories and the most powerful memories you will take from your college days at Samford are those that involve people…relationships,” Wood said. “What is true of your college days will be true for the rest of your life. Savor the relationships. Make a conscious decision as you embark on your career journey to balance the work of the job with healthy relationships with your family and friends. And in the end, you will be thankful that you did.”

The second ceremony honored 161 graduates from the School of the Arts, Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Brock School of Business, Orlean Beeson School of Education and Cumberland School of Law. 

Gary Furr, the recently retired pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, gave the commencement address for this ceremony, where he reflected on the lessons he learned while working as a bridge builder in college, urging graduates to use the gifts and skills they learned at Samford to build bridges with those they encounter in the future.

“I hope you know this: the highest purposes of a life of learning are not about driving apart but bringing closer, lifting and bringing all things into great purposes,” Furr said. “Raise up good families and children. Lift spirits. Raise up the fallen. Build up others. Lift someone else’s burden. Build hospitals and universities and good causes. Our world needs some bridge-builders. You have the gifts that could make ways for humanity to get across the rivers and ravines, and deep places and obstacles built by nature, fear and ignorance.”

On Dec. 10, 22 students graduated with a Master of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry degree from Beeson Divinity School during its December commencement. It also marked the first time President Beck A. Taylor presided over a graduation ceremony since he took office in July. For more information about the ceremony, read this story

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.