It was difficult to find non-smilers on the Samford University campus during Homecoming activities Saturday, Nov. 16. Too many people were having fun renewing friendships, admiring the beauty and making new memories.
A sea of tailgate tents and tables on the quadrangle provided space for 55 organizations, classes and affinity groups to offer food and fellowship. At one site, visitors could get favorite songs played over loud speakers.
Students in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences reunion area manned a John Howard Jukebox table, where for a $1 donation they would play selections from the 1950s to 2000s.
"The funds will help to build a statue of John Howard," explained junior classics major Jared Miller, referencing the 18th century English prison reformer for whom Samford was first named. Arts and Sciences dean David Chapman made the first contribution, requesting an Elvis Presley 1950s hit, "Jailhouse Rock."
At parade time, alumni, parents, families and students convened to watch the band, marching groups and vehicles bearing campus celebrities, including the homecoming court and alumni of the year honorees.
Andrew '06 and Lindsey Denton Murphy '08, Homewood residents who met as students in the marching band, brought their kids, Isaiah, 4, Evie, 2 and Lucy, six months. "We always come back. It's fun," said Andrew. In addition to catching parade candy, Isaiah had enjoyed frolicking in the bouncy castle on the quadrangle. Evie liked the kitty cat whiskers she received courtesy of a volunteer face painter.
Rex, the parade grand marshal and Samford canine mascot, was accompanied by his owner, 1983 M.B.A. alumna Linda Allison. The 65-pound English bulldog grinned nicely for admirers who snapped photos of his float that sported a doghouse built by 1976 alumnus Lynn Smith.
"It's just outstanding," Allison said of the reaction to Rex's participation. "He likes all the activity, and the pretty girls. He can't wait to cheer the football team."
Rex can be proud, and relieved. The gridiron Bulldogs defeated their homecoming opponents, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, in a heart-stopping 17-14 overtime victory. A crowd of 8,415 looked on in Seibert Stadium.
Zeta Tau Alpha sorority took first place for its float, "Bulldogs Blast off to Victory." Alpha Omicron Pi sorority was runner-up.
A tailgate tent for reunion classes hosted grads from classes of the 1980s and 1990s. Larry McQuiston of Phenix City and his wife, Amelia, were there for his 25th class anniversary. Their daughter, Emma, is a freshman. "I enjoyed being here in a small Christian atmosphere. God used Samford to mold me spiritually," said McQuiston, a longtime teacher.
Melinda Beam Collier and Holly Armstrong Drake, 1998 graduates who live in Birmingham, came to see other friends who had graduated 15 years ago. Each brought their two youngsters. "It's special to bring kids back and show them where we sent to school," said Drake. "It's hard for them to imagine we were students." The kids were especially intrigued by a pole vault demonstration that was part of the nearby track and field expo.
Winfred Brown, age 91, was admittedly the oldest of about 300 pharmacists at McWhorter School of Pharmacy's continuing education program. The 1947 graduate from Selma, Ala., recalled how he met his wife, the late Maude Ellen Jordan Brown '49, at a Howard College social when he returned to pharmacy school after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Several alumni participated in pre-game activity before the football kickoff in Seibert Stadium. Anita Funderburke Snell Daniels, a member of the 50-year anniversary class of 1963, offered the pre-game prayer. Class of 1955 graduate Bonnie Bolding, a former drum major who now serves on the Samford Board of Overseers, did the coin toss honors.
Chi Omega's at 50
Chi Omega's Zeta Zeta chapter alumnae had various 50th anniversary gatherings on and off campus throughout the weekend. Georgia residents Nadine Davis Gillenwaters '70 and Ann Irwin Williams '69, enjoyed lunch at the Chi Omega tailgate.
"I want to see sisters I haven't seen in 43 years," admitted Gillenwaters, who had attended a party the night before. The big event, the 50th anniversary gala, would be at The Club in Birmingham on Saturday evening.
Williams noted the pride that alumnae have in the current chapter, citing its successful philanthropy efforts and academic success. "It is nice to see good things coming for something that we were in on the beginning of," she said.
The two Step Sing veterans had joined other Atlanta-area Chi Omega alumnae to watch the first live stream of the production in 2011. Their sorority did not win that year. "But should have," both declared.
Erin Weir Bailey, Class of 1992, was another Chi Omega anxious to greet old friends. "I want to see people I've kept up with through social media, but have not seen in a long time," the Tampa, Fla., teacher said.
Lauren Grigsby Weathers, a 1999 graduate and chapter adviser, said that about 350 current members, alumnae and guests were expected for the Saturday gala. The attendee list included five charter members who were part of the inaugural pledge class.
Class of 1963
Many members of the 50-year anniversary class enjoyed a Saturday luncheon on the Wright Center stage. Some had arrived on Friday to attend their first Golden Bulldog luncheon, at which they were playfully introduced as "the kids" to graduates from earlier years.
Reminiscing was the order of the day, as many had not seen each other since graduation, nor been back on campus. Cordell Harrison, Lane Holland Powell and Anita Funderburke Snell Daniels shared their oral histories with the class.
"It is exciting to see the massive buildings, beautiful residence halls and walking areas," said class member T. Bob Davis, who finds it amazing that "such a gorgeous site" developed from what the campus looked like in the first years after its move from East Lake in the 1950s.
Additional Homecoming coverage:
Play of the Game
JMC Wall of Fame
Live @ the Library