Samford University The BelltowerMarch 2004

The Gift of a Broader Horizon

"...Now, out of 'a heart of thanksgiving' for the gifts she received as a Samford student, Cummings is giving a new generation of Samford students the opportunity to see the world and be humbled and changed by it..."

As a teacher leading Vestavia High School students on trips abroad, Vivien Barnes Cummings (B.A. '48, M.A. '66) saw the transformative power of international study--how it helps shy students blossom, how it demonstrates the relative newness and wealth of America, how it broadens horizons. Now, out of "a heart of thanksgiving" for the gifts she received as a Samford student, Cummings is giving a new generation of Samford students the opportunity to see the world and be humbled and changed by it.

Samford Development Officer Michelle Darrah worked with Cummings to make the most of Cummings' financial gifts to Samford, and said those gifts are a perfect illustration of transformational stewardship. "Mrs. Cummings and her family were transformed by Samford University's gifts to her," Darrah said, "and now she’s giving to help transform lives of students through the opportunity of travel. Classics Department Chair R. Stephen Todd said Cummings' gifts have already changed the lives of some Samford students. He hosted a dinner reception in February so Cummings and other travel scholarship supporters could meet students who studied with Todd in Greece during Samford's January term.

"These trips are truly transforming," Todd said, "not only deepening student's knowledge and enthusiasm, but also opening their minds to the opportunities and responsibilities of world citizenship. These students constantly raise the level of discussion in our classes by recounting what they have seen and experienced abroad, and the excitement and interest this creates is infectious." Unfortunately, Todd said, many students take out loans and extra jobs just to meet their routine college expenses, and can hardly afford even to dream about studying abroad. "Even the possibility of a modest scholarship will allow some students for the first time to consider the possibilities of international travel."

Cummings said she is especially eager to see her gifts used to help those Samford students who could not otherwise afford to travel. She recalls a life as a public school teacher, and as an adult Samford student whose sons would wait for her in University Library during class and watch her working at home toward her goals. They learned valuable lessons about hard work and dreams, she said, but didn't have some of the advantages enjoyed by other children. She looks at her sons now--one a doctor, the other a dentist--and thinks, "there are many fine students out there who deserve the best." For them, and to honor the Samford professors who changed her own life, Cummings now gives the gift of a broader horizon.

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