The Samford University campus was awash in the school colors Saturday, Oct. 29, as alumni, students and friends celebrated a “forever red and blue” themed homecoming.
A highlight was the return of the Class of 1961, which had been freshmen when the school, then Howard College, re-located from East Lake to the new Lakeshore campus in the fall of 1957.
“There are a lot of memories floating around,” observed reunion organizer Neil Nation at a luncheon as classmates recalled red mud on the un-landscaped campus and other aspects of college life in the late 1950s.
Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland presented the 50th reunion class members with anniversary diplomas bearing the name Samford University. “You are a part of something timeless,” Westmoreland told the class. “We are all part of something that existed before we arrived, and will exist after we are gone.”
“Your class has set the standard for classes at Samford,” said Westmoreland, referring to an impressive $76,382 that the class raised to establish a Legacy scholarship for students.
Classmate Joe McDade, who was recognized as an alumnus of the year on Friday, later offered an explanation for the successful effort.
“We were starting a new era,” he said. “We were a unique class at a unique time, and we wanted to do something unique and special.”
Many 1961 grads attended their classmate Dr. Wayne Flynt’s Live at the Library presentation. There, the historian and author read and discussed Samford-related passages from his autobiographical book, Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.
Dozens of Samford academic units and organizations had some sort of program, tailgate tent or other activity to feed, entertain or enlighten returning alumni.
Journalism and Mass Communication graduates gathered to induct alumni George H. Smith and the late Hugh Frank Smith into its Wall of Fame, which department chair Dr. Bernie Ankney noted is the highest honor a JMC alumnus, benefactor or friend can receive.
JMC alumna Carol Guthrie, Class of 1993, was at the ceremony. “A Hugh Frank Smith scholarship helped put me through school, so I must attend,” said the grateful former Samford alumna of the year who traveled from her home in Washington, D.C. for homecoming.
More than 200 pharmacists attended a continuing education program sponsored by McWhorter School of Pharmacy. Three former early 1990s classmates—Page Dunlap of Decatur, Ala., Melissa Rogers Bentley of Birmingham and Tony Hardee of Jackson, Miss., used it as a way to get CE credit, enjoy the pharmacy school’s barbecue tailgate and take in the football game.
Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education had a hit with its “artsy and not so artsy” sale, which drew former Bulldog football player Gary Kinley of Goodsprings, Ala, and his wife, June. Gary, a 1973 graduate who coached and taught in Walker County for 38 years, had enjoyed a 1971 team reunion. June, who attended another college, appreciated the art sale. “It adds a dimension to homecoming,” she said. Proceeds from the sale, held this year for the second time, support programs of the education school.
Some parents used homecoming as a fun way to introduce children to their alma mater.
Matthew and Elizabeth Putman Harper, classes of 1994 and 1996, respectively, brought Will, 12, James, 9, and Ella,6, to see the football game and the campus, explained Matthew, a business graduate. The Atlanta, Ga., residents were headed for the Cornerstone curriculum tent, where Elizabeth, an English major, had spotted a cluster of favorite professors.
Most everyone took note of the 31-unit parade led by grand marshal Dr. Bill Nugent, who wrote the words and music to the Samford fight song. On Friday, the former music faculty member had been awarded an honoris causa honorary alumnus designation. He taught at Samford during 1957-59.
Phi Mu sorority took top honors for its parade float, which encouraged the Samford Bulldogs to “Can the Catamounts” from Western Carolina. The Bulldogs complied in fine style by defeating their homecoming opponents 52-24.