Eugene W. (Gene) Bluemly, Jr., who played football at Samford University under Coach Bobby Bowden, has given Samford's Athletic Department its largest gift in history: half a million dollars.
The $500,000 gift is being used to restore and upgrade the Samford track in Seibert Stadium and expand weight training and other facilities for athletics in Seibert Hall.
The track will be expanded to provide an eight-lane, 400-meter facility suitable for hosting full-fledged intercollegiate events, said Samford Athletics Director Bob Roller. The gift will have "a direct impact" on every Samford student-athlete and coach, he added.
"Not only will we have a first-class 400-meter track, but this gift will allow us to expand our weight training facility and add much-needed office and meeting space," said Roller. "Gene has a sincere desire to help others and he has proven that with this gift."
Construction is underway on all the new facilities, said Roller, with completion scheduled during the current fall semester.
Bluemly, a Birmingham insurance executive, attended Samford during the early 1960s. He has been a supporter of the school over the years and serves as a member of Samford's Planned Giving Advisory Board.
"Gene Bluemly's generous gift will be a blessing to students, faculty and friends for years to come," said Samford President Thomas E. Corts. Bluemly said he did not realize his was the largest gift ever to Samford athletics. When asked about his motivation, he cited his love for Samford and for sports and said, "It was the right thing to do."
Bluemly's late wife, Nancy, also attended Samford and his late father-in-law, Lew Arnold, was Samford's photographer for more than 30 years.
Bluemly has especially fond memories of Bowden, the nationally acclaimed Florida State University football coach who is a Samford graduate and coached football at the Birmingham school during 1959-62.
Bluemly remembered that Bowden allowed no "cussing" on the field. Players who forgot the rule had to run laps around the field.
"Bowden, too," said Bluemly. "When he did, he would just take off and run. No one had to tell him."