Sweet sounds of friends greeting friends and music from many voices, ages and genres rang out across the Samford University campus during Homecoming celebration Saturday, Nov. 6.
The Sweet Home Samford theme was enjoyed by an estimated 3,500 alumni, students and others who gathered for the weekend of reunions and special events. And that doesn’t count thousands more who convened in Seibert Stadium to watch the Bulldogs play football.
There was no end to the ways alumni found to celebrate their alma mater and common academic heritage.
The library was the setting for composer, music historian and alumnus Bobby Horton to hold forth with talk and songs. Alumna Tommie Jean Byrd Slaughter, Class of 1958, enjoyed Horton’s performance while her husband, Fred Slaughter, a 1957 pharmacy graduate, participated in a continuing education program sponsored by McWhorter School of Pharmacy.
Slaughter recalled that the first person she met when she arrived as a freshman on the East Lake campus was Fred, whose service fraternity helped new students move in to the dorms. The couple, who have been married more than 50 years, lives in Wetumpka, Ala.
The roster of Samford couples who share romantic campus memories grew by one during the weekend, when 2005 music graduate Jeremy Scroggs proposed to Crystal Briley, a 2003 music graduate. The setting on Friday afternoon was under a tree outside Buchanan Hall music building, where they had “hung out” as students.
The tree with the bench underneath holds special significance to the couple since it is where Crystal’s parents, David and Glenda Cochran Briley, had met as Samford students.
“We wanted the engagement to be special, so what better time than at Samford Homecoming,” said Jeremy, who also holds a 2007 master’s in music from Samford. They plan a July, 2011, wedding.
Saturday morning events included an A Cappella Choir gathering in Reid Chapel, where choir alumni were joined by current choir members. The younger choir, led by first-year conductor Dr. Philip Copeland, received an ovation from retired director Dr. Gene Black and choir alumni for their rendition of “Ride on, King Jesus.” On Friday evening, the 2010 choir had inspired a capacity crowd in Hodges Chapel during the traditional Evensong worship service.
Spectators lined Sherman Circle to applaud the 26-unit parade of floats, the Samford marching band and assorted groups, including a contingent of Latin American Scholars waving a variety of national flags. Leading the parade were Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland and his wife Jeanna, in a convertible driven by their daughter, Riley, a Samford junior.
Not far behind were vehicles bearing this year’s alumni of the year honorees Ann Thornton Field and Bill Stevens, outstanding young alumni Ted Alling, Allan Davis and Barry Large, and new national alumni association president Keith Herron. The honorees were recognized at a dinner on Friday evening.
The parade also included the Homecoming court members. Seniors Terra Garmon of Gadsden, Ala., and David Saunders of Norcross, Ga., were named queen and king during football game halftime.
Zeta Tau Alpha sorority won first place in parade competition for their “Terrify the Terriers” themed float that gave a nod to the Bulldogs’ opponents from Wofford College. Samford lost the game 10-3.
Alumni enjoying the parade included Jeremy and Leslie Moore Pittman, who brought daughters Jadyn, 4, and Kara, 1, so that Leslie, a 2000 pharmacy graduate, could celebrate her 10-year reunion. The Spring Hill, Tenn., residents took in the tailgate lunch at the McWhorter tent, where students and faculty offered timely health information and screenings.
Also looking for 10-year anniversary classmates was Michael Williams , who brought sons Wyatt, 3, and Mason, 5, from Cincinnati, Ohio, for the weekend. His daughter and wife stayed home while he attended his first Homecoming since 2002. “Everything is different,” he noted of the campus, but added that it’s all good.
Saturday activities included the recognition of the late Pulitzer Prize winner Harold E. Martin and award winning faculty member Dr. Dennis R. Jones as the 2010 inductees into the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Wall of Fame.
Lunchtime found the aroma of burgers, barbecue and a Low Country shrimp boil wafting around the campus quadrangle.
Holding their first tailgate reunion picnic were Honors Program graduates, including Kim Younce Schooley, Class of 1992, J.D., 1995, who dropped by following a meeting with the Howard College of Arts & Sciences advisory board. “It is great to see what the University Fellows Program is doing now,” said Schooley, who also enjoyed reuniting with people who had been at the London Study Center with her in 1990.
Conveniently, the Honors/Fellows tent was positioned close to the performance site chosen by Not Yet Ded, a retro rock group that includes former study center professor in residence Dr. Mark Baggett and former Honors program director Dr. Larry Davenport.
Just down the sidewalk, the sweet sounds of the 18-member Gospel Choir, accompanied by drums, keyboard and guitar, drew an appreciative audience in front of Beeson University Center.
Members of the Class of 1960 met over lunch to celebrate their 50th anniversary reunion. Many had also attended a Friday brunch that included members from earlier classes. The event, held for the first time at the Samford President’s Home, drew a record 100 guests.
At the brunch, 1947 graduate Dr. Howard Clark of Durham, N.C. won the Lockmiller award as the male graduate present from the earliest class. Sara Jordan Coe, Class of 1942, from Birmingham, was the female recipient.
On Friday evening, eight former students of the Samford opera program sang at a Cabaret performance designed to pay tribute to longtime professor and voice teacher Dr. G. William Bugg, who will retire at the end of this academic year.
Samford President Westmoreland summed the spirit of Homecoming during remarks at the alumni dinner on Friday.
He recalled seeing an archival photo of former Samford president Harwell G. Davis planting a tree in front of Ingalls Hall in the 1950s. The tree is there today.
“It reminded me how we are all connected to this place,” he said of the tree that has spanned generations of students. “The connections are deep and enduring. One day that tree will be gone, and these buildings may be gone.
“But the spirit of Samford will live on. That’s what we’re here to celebrate.”
Homecoming weekend will conclude Sunday with a 10 a.m. worship service in Hodges Chapel. Alumni Brian Pitts and Renee Lankford Pitts will lead the service.