Samford University


Samuel Sterling Sherman, 1842-1852

Samuel Sterling ShermanSamford's first president, 27-year-old Samuel Sterling Sherman, was a native of Vermont who had come south to improve his frail health. He opened a preparatory school in Tuscaloosa, tutored in ancient languages at the University of Alabama and served as UA's librarian. His reputation attracted the attention of those searching for a president for newly-founded Howard College in Marion.

Sherman accepted the presidency of Howard College in spite of the UA president's warning that the Baptists wouldn't be able to sustain their new school. This was an act of great faith, because when Howard College opened in 1842 it consisted of a single wooden building and had no students, no faculty and minimal resources. The curriculum was so limited that when the local newspaper prepared to announce the opening of "Howard University," Sherman went to the printing office and changed the copy to read "Howard English and Classical School"--a more modest and accurate description of the college.

By the end of the first year of operation, Howard College had 31 students. For most of that year, Sherman was the college's only professor, and the combined revenue from tuition was not enough even to pay his room and board. It is said that Sherman had to push a wheelbarrow door to door in Marion begging for books to create a library for the college.

Conditions at Howard gradually improved in the decade of Sherman’s presidency, and he felt it was time to move on in 1852. He visited Marion again after the Civil War, and was celebrated for the kindness he showed in visiting Confederate prisoners of war in Federal prisons, and for his service to Howard College.

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