/The University of Montevallo celebrates 126 years on Founders’ Day 
Cody Hodge, SGA President, speaking at Founders' Day. Photo by Josie Shaw, managing editor of production.

The University of Montevallo celebrates 126 years on Founders’ Day 

By John Limbaugh 

The University of Montevallo celebrated its 126th annual Founders’ Day on Thursday, Oct. 13. 

With their graduation robes in hand, this year’s senior class walked the same path as their predecessors, marching across Main Quad to Palmer Hall for the convocation ceremony.   

This year’s theme was A Montevallo Moment. In his opening speech, President Dr. John Stewart III said the theme symbolizes how the Montevallo family is held together by their experiences and moments at the university. 

“A Montevallo moment may come from success or recognition, or it may be the smallest act of kindness that leads to lifelong friendships on our campus,” he said.  

The president commended the senior class for their determination in reaching this point in their undergraduate education and told them that same determination would “help guide and sustain them throughout life’s journey.” 

Blake Hudson, a UM graduate who spoke as the Senior Class President during Founders’ Day in 2002, delivered this year’s keynote address. Hudson became the dean and a professor of law at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in July, and he spoke about how his time at Montevallo made his success possible. 

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the dean of the Cumberland School of Law,” he said, “but it would not have been possible without many moments that shaped me during my time at Montevallo. I can say without a doubt that the many moments I had at Montevallo were transformative in my life.” 

Keeping with this year’s theme, Hudson said that his first Montevallo Moment was being able to attend.  

“My father had no running water or electricity in his house until he was 14 years old in 1962,” he said, “but less than a decade later he graduated from UM with his master’s degree.” 

Hudson said he was able to pursue a degree at Montevallo because it was affordable. Hudson ended his speech by advising the senior class to make the most of their moments and turn them into lasting imprints on their lives. 

During the ceremony, Cole Swain, Rachel Johnson and Lucy Frost-Helms were recognized for finding the crook for the second consecutive year. 

The hiding of the crook is a Founders’ Day tradition that the senior class of 1926 began to allow juniors to make the transition to a senior. This year the crook was hidden near the Center for the Arts where Jeter Hall once stood. 

Toward the end of the ceremony, several staff members were awarded for their service during their time at Montevallo, 

Dr. Jermaine Mitchell, an assistant professor of exercise and science who died on Feb. 20, was posthumously awarded the renamed Jermaine Mitchell Faculty Service Award in honor of his community service. His wife, Dr. Qshequilla Mitchell accepted the award on his behalf.  

Dr. Ashley Wurzbacher, an associate professor of English, was named the 2022 University Scholar for her short story collection, “Happy Like This,” which has received international recognition. 

William “Bill” Carmichael, an adjunct professor of world civilizations, received the Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award. 

Jenny Bell, director of student life, was awarded the University of Montevallo National Alumni Association Outstanding Staff Service Award. 

Dr. Greg Samuels, an associate professor of elementary and secondary education received the UMNAA Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. 

The third and final UMNAA award, the Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumni Loyalty Award was bestowed to Claudia Harrell, a 1973 UM graduate. 

After the ceremony, Justin McMahon, a senior and elementary education major, spoke about the experience of the convocation ceremony and how he was inspired by it. 

“Today’s ceremony was incredible,” he said. “I got to see some of my favorite professors being honored. Absolutely beautiful and so inspirational.”

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