The chapel in Samford University's Beeson Divinity Hall has been a campus
showplace since its dedication in the fall of 1995. With its majestic dome,
spectacular organ, classic mural paintings and hand-carved pulpit, it evokes
images of the world's great houses of worship.
Now, the structure will have something it has not had: a formal name.
The Samford Board of Trustees has voted to name the chapel for Andrew Gerow
Hodges, the longtime trustee and former board chairman whose friendship with
the Beeson family was so meaningful to Samford and the divinity school.
The naming of Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel will be recognized in a special program
Sunday, Nov. 24, at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public.
"It is not too much to say that the tremendous difference the Beeson
family has made in Samford University never would have happened without Andrew
Gerow Hodges," said Samford President Thomas E. Corts.
"Mr. Hodges has been a trustee of Samford for almost four decades. He
was a friend of the Beeson family for more than half a century, was mentored
by both Ralph and Dwight Beeson at Liberty National Life Insurance Company (later
Torchmark), and was among those who first drew the Beesons' interest to Samford
Hodges "personally brought together" the Beesons and Samford's last
two presidents, Leslie Wright and himself, Corts noted.
"Recognizing his role as close personal friend, charged by Ralph Beeson
with 'looking after his investment in Samford,' the Board of Trustees felt it
appropriate to honor Mr. Hodges in this manner," said Corts. "We believe
it is much deserved."
The Beeson family gave more than $100 million to Samford during the lifetimes
and in the estates of the brothers, Ralph and Dwight, and their wives, Orlean
and Lucille. Among many gifts, Ralph Beeson funded and endowed the divinity
school and its building and chapel.
The divinity school is named for Ralph Beeson, a frugal man who believed in
giving his fortune back to the Lord's work, and his father, John Wesley Beeson,
a Mississippi educator. A medallion near the pulpit of the chapel honors their
Hodges, a 1942 Samford graduate, is a retired Birmingham business and civic
leader. He worked with Liberty National from 1946 until retirement as executive
vice president in 1984. Throughout his adult life, he also worked in behalf
of numerous local charities. He has been honored with local and national awards
from the Boy Scouts and others.
From Geneva, Ala., Hodges came to Samford to play football, but was forced
to give up the sport due to a shoulder injury. Declared unfit for military service
during World War II, he volunteered for the American Red Cross and was attached
to the 94th Infantry Division in France.
In that role, he won the Bronze Star for negotiating freedom for 149 Allied
prisoners of war in exchange for German POWs during late 1944. Last January,
12 of the former POWs held a reunion with Hodges in Birmingham. Most met him
for the first time, but they had known his name for more than half a century.
"Thanks to Hodges, we survived," said one of the former captives,
Wayne Stewart of Wenatchee, Wash.
Hodges has been a member of the Samford Board since 1962. He and his wife,
the former Mary Louise Shirley, are parents of two sons, Dr. Andrew Gerow Hodges,
Jr., a local psychiatrist, and Gregory, who operates an advertising and public
relations firm. They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.