This fall marks the 50th anniversary of Samford University's move from its East Lake site to Lakeshore Drive in Homewood, but new and returning students who begin classes Monday (Aug. 27) will find even more to celebrate.
The expected student body of about 4,500 will note several academic milestones and much construction progress that took place while they were on summer break.
In mid-August, came news that Samford had an especially high ranking in the annual college rankings released by U.S. News & World Report.
Samford came in number 118 of the 262 institutions in the doctoral research university category. The school previously was ranked among master's level universities in the South.
Reclassified as a national university last year because of its diversity of undergraduate and graduate degrees offered, Samford is the only private institution in Alabama in the national universities category.
Samford's new classification by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education makes it Birmingham's second national research university-joining the University of Alabama at Birmingham-and the only private national research university in Alabama.
Other doctoral-research universities in the state are the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and Auburn University.
Last year, Samford awarded more than 450 doctoral and professional degrees in divinity, education, law and pharmacy.
Students will find a newly completed 600-space north campus parking deck ready for use and an almost-finished 136,000 square foot Pete Hanna Center. The spacious Hanna Center will contain a 5,000 retractable seat arena, athletic administration offices and a fitness area. Set for dedication in October, the center will be the site of basketball and other sporting events, concerts and future graduation activity.
The Hazel P. Boren Courtyard and Gardens adjacent to Wright Center will soon be open for outdoor concerts and other events. Other less dramatic but welcome campus improvements include new flooring in some residence halls and boiler and chiller plant expansions.
Today's setting is a far cry from the campus that greeted students who arrived at the Lakeshore Drive location for the first time in the fall of 1957. It was the second move for the school, then known as Howard College, which had relocated to the East Lake area of Birmingham in 1887 from its 1841 founding site in Marion.
Samford president Andrew Westmoreland will address students at the semester-opening convocation on Tuesday (Aug. 28) at 10 a.m. in Wright Center.
Students at Samford's Cumberland School of Law began classes Aug. 20.