Two Samford University faculty members were cited for outstanding accomplishments as educators at the opening convocation of the spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Brock School of Business professor Dr. Steven T. Jones received the George Macon Memorial Award for his outstanding performance as a teacher, counselor, friend to students, and one who inspires students to greatness.
English professor Dr. Nancy Whitt received the Jennings B. Marshall Service Award as a faculty member who has made significant and sustained service contributions to the University.
The awards were presented by Samford provost and executive vice president Dr. J. Bradley Creed.
Jones, said Dr. Creed, is a “teacher’s teacher,” who seeks to help each of students achieve full potential. “He always goes the extra mile and works tirelessly with students outside of class, both in his office and at optional help sessions,” said Creed. “It is no surprise that student surveys reveal a nearly universally positive student assessment of his teaching, giving him impressively high ratings.”
Jones, who holds a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Cincinnati, joined the Samford faculty in 2001. Active in university and professional communities, he advises student groups and mentors new faculty members. He is president-elect of the international Academy of Economics and Finance.
Whitt was cited for her longtime leadership of the Samford faculty senate and her role in critical changes ranging from core curriculum to faculty welfare. Creed noted that Whitt, who joined the Samford faculty in 1973, has always sought the betterment of the University as a place where academic and spiritual values find their full expression.
A longtime proponent of an increased diversity of students, faculty, staff and curriculum at Samford, Whitt is known “for reaching across cultures, race and religion in her quest to make Samford a better place,” said Creed. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama.
Creed inspired the convocation audience in Wright Center with accounts of the lives of long-ago religious leaders John Leland, Ann Hasseltine Judson and Francis Wayland.
The three New Englanders by birth, he said, all meet criteria for his address entitled “Yankee Ingenuity and the Grace of God: Snapshots of three Antebellum American Baptists.”
All were pioneers, innovators and pacesetters in some way, said Creed.
Leland, a preacher who lived from 1754 to 1841, moved from his native Massachusetts to Virginia, where he became an advocate for religious liberty. He saw his principles played out on the national stage through his influence on James Madison, who became known as the architect of the first amendment.
Baptists of the day were key players related to the framing of the Constitution and the Bill of rights, said Creed, noting that Leland was an especially effective communicator of the gospel who preached more than 8,000 sermons. “He could speak the language of the common people.”
Judson, also from Massachusetts, was known for her work in early 19th century Baptist missionary work in Burma with her husband, Adoniram. Headstrong and determined from an early age, she prevailed through hardships that included typhoid and other illnesses, the death of three children, several house fires, and times alone when her husband was imprisoned or away raising money for their ministry.
While a major legacy is her work translating the Bible into the Burmese language, Judson was also a strong woman leader and educator who developed schools and programs. Popular in England and America through the accounts of her struggles that she sent back for publication, she was at one time hailed as the “women of the century.”
New York born Wayland, a pastor, higher education reformer and president of Brown University, established flexible entrance requirements in a time when education had been primarily for the elite, said Creed.
Wayland increased enrollment and endowment, and changed curriculum style from rote memory drills. “He made students ask questions, engage in Socratic dialogue and critical thinking,” said Creed, adding that Wayland wrote texts on ethics, taught moral philosophy, was anti-slavery, and advanced the idea of free libraries. “He was responsible for educating men who became leaders.”
Leland, Judson and Wayland all had certain common traits, noted Creed, such as a reliance on scriptures, a personal faith in Jesus Christ, stands on religious liberty and separation of church and state, a commitment to evangelism and missions, support of education, and a commitment to public service and civic engagement as Christians.