All in the Family: Grad Follows in Mother’s, Grandmother’s Footsteps

 

When Andrea Sams graduates today, it will be more than a personal achievement. It will be a family tradition.

She is the third generation of women in her family to earn their degrees from UT.

Sams, of Kingston, Tennessee, will get her bachelor’s degree in recreation and sport management with a concentration in therapeutic recreation. She graduates from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

Sams’s grandmother, Betty M. “Bay” Walker, graduated in 1953 with a master’s degree in family relations and child development and went on to work at three colleges, retiring from McNeese State University.

Sams’s mother, Beth Walker Sams, earned her bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising in 1983. She now works as the sheriff’s assistant in Roane County.

Beth Walker Sams said family had a huge influence on her decision to attend UT thirty years ago.

Not only was her mother an alumna, her father attended UT, but he was drafted into the military before he could finish. Her uncle is also a UT grad.

“All three of my brothers chose to attend UT,” she said. “As the younger sister, I spent many years following my brothers in their many endeavors.

“Although there were several factors that went into my decision to attend UT, such as quality of education and location, it was an easy decision to follow my siblings.”

She remembers feeling anxious as she stood in in line to register for her first semester of classes.

“Being a very young freshman, I wondered if I would ever be able to make it through the next four years. As I stood in line, my brother Patrick walked by and laughed at me. Suddenly, I felt like everything would be OK because my brothers were here.”

For current grad Andrea Sams, UT was a perfect fit—near family, but ripe with opportunities for her to explore her own interests.

“I wanted to stay close to home, and I loved sports so I couldn’t wait to go to football games,” she said. “I loved being at the football games so much that I joined The Pride of the Southland Marching Band color guard for two years.”

Sams also spent three years working with children with disabilities at Camp Koinonia, a weeklong camp hosted by UT’s Therapeutic Recreation Program. And, since she was close enough to commute home, she continued to work as a child care provider at her church.

This semester she did a semester-long internship with Anderson County Schools.

At its recent awards celebration, the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies presented Sams with the Samuel A. Venable Award for her commitment to the university and the profession through service.

“I’ve loved being active, and I’ve developed a real passion for children with special needs,” said Sams, who is considering graduate school.

While Sams is graduating, the family tradition will continue next year.

“My little sister will be coming to UT in the fall as a freshman,” Andrea Sams said.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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