The University of Montevallo celebrated 125 years on Founders’ Day Oct. 14 on Main Quad on the University campus. Founders’ Day is an occasion to not only honor the founding of the University but also to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves.
The sun shone on the procession of UM faculty members, followed by the graduating seniors, as they advanced under the archway of the Bowers Colonnade and took their seats for the ceremony. After an invocation by Anakate Andrasko, president of UM’s Student Government Association, and the singing of the National Anthem by music student Elicia Freeman, President John W. Stewart III welcomed administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends to the outdoor location, a departure from the traditional Palmer Hall Auditorium, due to concerns related to COVID-19. Stewart reflected briefly on the history of the University from its origin to the present with emphasis on the past two years.
“This institution was born of challenge, born of progress and change, and it was our adaptability that continues to ensure success in both the classroom and later for our students in society,” Stewart said. “I stand here today, both grateful and proud.”
Dr. Mary Beth Armstrong, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presided over the traditional investiture of the senior class, personally robing Heather Collier, senior class president, who led the senior pledge.
Following tradition, in the days leading up to Founders’ Day, an ornamental “crook,” (a walking stick) is hidden somewhere on the UM campus, and the student or students who follow publicized clues and locate the crook receive an award. This year’s successful sleuths were Katy Barnes, Lucy Frost-Helms, Rachel Johnson and Cole Swain.
The 2021 President’s Award, presented by Hon. Todd Strange, chair of the UM Board of Trustees, went to Dr. Carl A. Stockton, chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery. Stockton was recognized for his efforts to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to UM faculty and staff in the early months of the pandemic, thus enabling the University to continue its mission to educate its students.
Professor Carey W. Heatherly, archive and special collections librarian, was the keynote speaker. He recounted the history of the University from the inception of the idea in the mind of Julia Tutwiler to current day, including amusing anecdotes and recognition of outstanding persons who contributed to the success of the school along the way. He was presented with a plaque honoring his diligence in preserving the history of the University.
The University of Montevallo Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Melinda S. Doyle, sang the Roy Ringwald arrangement of Deep River.
Dr. Steven Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts, presented the University Scholar award to Dr. Tiffany Wang, associate professor of communication studies and director of the Progression to Profession Quality Enhancement Plan (P2P). The University Scholar is recognized for exhibiting exemplary strides in creativity, research and scholarship.
Dr. Ray Ozley, associate professor of communication and president of the Faculty Senate, presented the Faculty Service Award to Dr. Cynthia Tidwell, professor of chemistry and coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Program. Tidwell was recognized for her accessibility to students and her leadership in the promotion of undergraduate research.
In addition, Ozley presented a proclamation by the Faculty Senate recognizing the efforts of the University staff who continually provide support functions necessary for daily operations, particularly during the recent pandemic. Many logistical changes were necessary to keep the University viable during periods of quarantine, and many staff members were critical in facilitating these adjustments.
Cynthia Todd, president of the University of Montevallo National Alumni Association, presented awards to three individuals selected by the UMNAA Board of Directors. All three alums were chosen based on their dedication to the University and the accomplishments they have made in their personal and professional lives.
Joshua Miller, director of counseling services, received the Outstanding Staff Service Award recognizing excellence in service and loyalty to the university. Miller was honored for his diligence in strengthening the University’s counseling programs and for arranging a significant increase in counseling services during the pandemic.
Dr. Bruce Finklea, associate professor and coordinator of mass communication, received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award recognizing dedication to the provision of a quality education and his impact on students through the teaching-learning process. Finklea has received several national broadcasting awards and has contributed to a number of communication-focused textbooks.
Sandi Falkenhagen, who graduated from the University in 1968, received the Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumnus Loyalty Award honoring her many years of loyalty and dedication to the University of Montevallo through her contributions of time, talents and resources. She served on the UM Alumni Board of Directors for 13 years, chairing several committees.
After closing ceremonies, attendees were treated to a picnic lunch on King Quad, followed by several events across campus. The day concluded with the dedication of the Thoreau Cabin at University Lake, the Readers’ Theatre Presentation at the Center for the Arts and a UMNAA Awards recognition reception at Anna Irvin Hall.