The University of Montevallo celebrated the 120th year of its founding on Oct. 13. UM was founded on Oct. 12, 1896 as Alabama Girls’ Industrial School and has since grown into the state’s premiere public liberal arts institution.
The theme of this year’s Founders’ Day was “Truth and Honor Crown Thy Name,” a reference to the last line in the University’s alma mater.
The annual ceremony began at 11 a.m. as UM faculty, clad in their processional regalia, lead graduating seniors into Palmer Hall. For seniors, Founders’ Day marks their first opportunity to officially don their black graduation robes.
Keynote Speaker & Surprise Guest
President John W. Stewart III welcomed everyone as the ceremony officially began. He also introduced two surprise guests from Japan.
Takara Fuji and his wife, Keiko, were visiting campus to learn more about Hiroko Oikawa, Fuji’s mother. Oikawa was a 1953 graduate of the University who passed away when her son was a young child. Fuji was attempting to retrace Hiroko’s steps in life and used the Milner Archives and Special Collections of Carmichael Library to learn about her college years.
Stewart then introduced this year’s keynote speaker, newly appointed UM Board of Trustee Leroy Nix. In 2003, Nix graduated from UM with a degree in political science. After serving as a legal aid to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for three years, Nix earned his doctorate and, in 2009, began working for Alabama Power as the manager of corporate and constituent affairs.
Nix spoke humorously on his trials and tribulations as a student at UM. He encouraged the gathered senior class to sometimes allow life to drag them where it pleased. “You can try to think your way through this thing called life, or you can do the things you enjoy and see where that takes you,” he said citing personal examples where the approach lead to success.
University & Alumni Awards
After Nix’s speech, several faculty and staff were recognized for their contributions in helping to maintain the University’s quality of education.
Heather Tinsley was this year’s University Scholar. Tinsley has been a member of the UM faculty since 2011, and has managed to publish 10 research articles in her short five-year time, double what is normally expected of faculty in her college.
Next, Stephen Parker, faculty senate president, introduced the recipient of this year’s faculty service award. The award recognizes a faculty member who consistently commits time outside of the classroom to serve the University and local community.
The faculty senate chose History Program Chair Ruth Truss for the honor due to her accumulation of all of the service and projects she has put efforts toward throughout her 23-year teaching career at the University.
Next, University Provost Suzanne Ozment and Student Government Association President Hunter Huie came forward to present the two Academic Affairs Awards.
Sally Bennett Hardig, assistant professor of communication studies, received this year’s Academic Advising Award winner for the special bonds she creates with her advisees. The Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award went to Lynn Faulkner of the music department for her dedication and willingness to support her many students.
Finally, UM’s National Alumni Association (UMNAA) President Laurl Self introduced the winners of the UMNAA awards.
Business instructor DeAnna Smith ’99 was given the Outstanding Staff Service Award for her work as the former Vice President of Business Affairs and Treasurer for the University.
Hardig also walked away with her second award of the morning, the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award.
Finally, Mel Dorrough Robinson ’52 received the Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumna Loyalty Award, bestowed to a UM alumnus or alumna who consistently gives back to their alma mater. Robinson has contributed significantly to the University’s social work program through both gifts, scholarships and her time.
A Time to Celebrate
After the ceremony’s end, Founders’ Day guests, participants and family stood on the brick steps of Palmer Auditorium to exchange congrats and pose for pictures.
The day concluded with a luncheon in Anna Irvin Dining Hall, followed by an open house reception at Flowerhill, hosted by Stewart and his wife, Cindi, to mingle and celebrate the University’s continued strength and excellence.