By Wesley Walter, Managing editor
As seniors donned their graduation robes for the first time at Montevallo’s 127th Founders’ Day on Oct. 12, speakers and honored award recipients focused on the overarching theme of momentum.
University of Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart led the introduction of the Founders’ Day convocation. Speaking on the history of the event and the university, Stewart said, “In the late 1800s, as Senator Solomon Bloch of Camden, Ala. traveled the roads of our state, he increasingly witnessed many young women relegated to work in the fields to earn a meager living. There was little opportunity or training for women and Senator Bloch found this intolerable.”
Collaboration between Bloch and women’s education reformer, Julia Tutwiler, was crucial to UM’s founding according to Stewart, who said, “Through the cooperation and commitment, a mere hope and an uncertain idea became a reality that has transformed the lives of over 26,000 women and men.”
“Today we honor those who laid a firm foundation as we again are together shoulder-to-shoulder 127 years later as a university and greater community,” said Stewart.
The theme for the event was momentum, a concept applied seniors as they move forward in life and the university as it continues to grow.
SGA President Colton Rodano delivered the event’s invocation saying, “I expect that some future leaders are here today wearing their senior robes for the first time, fully prepared through their liberal arts education to take on the world.”
Following the invocation, senior music major Josh Giles led the singing of the national anthem.
Vice President and Provost Dr. Courtney Bentley and Senior Class President Abigail Heuton led the formal robing of the senior class and recited the class pledge.
The convocation’s keynote speaker was UM alumna Julia Maloney. Maloney, who graduated from UM in 2013 with a degree in political science, is now a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Stewart introduced Maloney saying, “In 2013, our Founders’ Day speaker was sitting here just like you, wondering what the future may hold.”
During her address, Maloney reflected on momentum and the importance of perseverance in the face of difficulties.
For Maloney, momentum brings to mind a boulder rolling down a mountain, steadily picking up speed as it goes.
Continuing this analogy, Maloney said, “When I think back to how my life has gone so far that’s not quite how it’s played out. Sure, there is this great mountain and there is a boulder, and the boulder is making its way down, but that mountain is not smooth. It’s full of bumps and cliffs and holes, because you know life is not just success, it’s also failure.”
“At some point, you will do your best, you will try your hardest, you will give it your all and it won’t be enough. You will lose. You will be passed over. You may be turned down and it will hurt a lot, but don’t let that deter you,” Maloney said.
Maloney reflected on her time at UM, discussing her sense of defeat when her side lost College Night her senior year and her feelings of victory after a wind ensemble performance that same year.
“Standing here today I can tell you all, you will know defeat, but you will know success. And today is a success,” Maloney said. “Whatever lays ahead of you, please remember it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is what you do next and wherever you may go—wherever that momentum may carry you—please remember Montevallo will always be here for you.”
Stewart awarded Maloney the UM President’s Award following her address and introduced a performance by the university concert choir in her honor.
Following the choir performance, Stewart announced that later that day UM would be launching a fundraising campaign entitled MomentUM.
According to Stewart, the funds from this campaign will provide scholarships for students. Additionally, funds will be used to expand financial and material resources and opportunities and services provided by the university.
“The campaign for the University of Montevallo will help not only students who are currently here but faculty who teach you in the classroom,” said Stewart.
In another portion of the convocation ceremony, faculty and staff members who had received awards and honors were recognized.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Ruth Truss presented psychology professor Dr. Elizabeth Richardson as the 2023 University Scholar.
Richardson, whose field is medical clinical psychology, focuses her research on the biological, psychological and social mechanisms of pain.
According to Truss, during Richardson’s five years at UM, she has published six peer-reviewed articles, four book chapters and co-authored “Pain Psychology for Clinicians: A Practical Guide for the Non-Psychologist Managing Patients with Chronic Pain,” published by Oxford University Press.
Faculty Senate President Dr. Catherine Walsh presented environmental studies professor Dr. Susan Caplow with the Jermaine B. Mitchell Faculty Service Award.
Caplow serves as the Faculty Senate Sustainability Committee Chair and, according to Walsh, was given the award for her dedication to nurturing the environmental studies program and fostering cross-disciplinary connections between faculty and students.
Bentley awarded Dr. Lynn Kirkland of the College of Education and Human Development with the Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award.
Staff Senate President Aaron Mahaney presented the inaugural Johnny D. Holsombeck Shine Award posthumously to Holsombeck.
“The purpose of this award is to recognize a University of Montevallo staff member’s dedication and service to the university students, colleagues and citizens of the greater community,” said Mahaney. “If you had the honor of knowing Johnny and if you spent any time with him while he was out grilling at an athletic event, or volunteering in the community with the Boys and Girls Club or the City of Montevallo Parks and Rec Board, or even if he took a moment to brighten your day, you would agree that that statement is who he was.”
UM National Alumni Association President Stephanie Baugh Shaw awarded Director of University Marketing and Communications Kira Thomas with the Outstanding Staff Service Award, social work professor Dr. Jason Newell the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award and Dr. Susan Vaughn the Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumna Loyalty Award.
Baugh Shaw also announced that recipients of the Alumni Association 15 Within 15, an honor given to 15 alumni who demonstrate strong leadership and career passion within the first 15 years after graduation, would be honored at a dinner later that day.
Baugh Shaw asked members of the 2023 class of the 15 Within 15 which includes Maloney to stand and be honored.
Stewart honored the 2023 finders of the crook Rachel Johnson, Cole Swain and Lucy Frost-Helms saying, “True Montevallo sleuths, congratulations to each of you, our Sherlock Holmes.”
Stewart also honored UM Board of Trustees members including board chairman Justice Todd Strange, as well as Cynthia Todd, Judge Matt Fridy and Anita Brueck, asking them to stand and be honored.
Also asked to stand by Stewart were Dr. Donna Ploessl, Interim Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Amiee Mellon, Dean of the Michael E. Stephens College of Business, Dr. Steven Peters, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Academic Grand Marshall Dr. Robert Barone.
Stewart asked those representing the City of Montevallo and Shelby County, the UM National Alumni Association, UM Junior Board, UM Foundation board, 1896 Society, military members and veterans and alumni to stand and be honored alongside several family members and friends of those presented with awards during convocation.
Convocation ended with a performance of the UM Alma Mater led by Giles and a Benediction by Student Trustee Aubrie Chastain.
Wesley Walter is managing editor for The Alabamian. He is a junior English major and mass communications minor. Wesley boasts a 750 credit score, boyish good looks and soulful eyes that contain a deep indescribable sadness. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, visiting gas stations and thinking about getting into surfing.