“...President Thomas E. Corts, who has led Samford for 22 years, will retire at the end of the 2005-06 academic year, or earlier if a Presidential Search Committee identifies his successor before then. But Dr. Corts, whose tenure has been marked by progress in numerous areas for Samford, won't leave before further placing his imprint on the University he has led since 1983...”
by Bill Nunnelley
President Thomas E. Corts, who has led Samford for 22 years, will retire at the end of the 2005-06 academic year, or earlier if a Presidential Search Committee identifies his successor before then. But Dr. Corts, whose tenure has been marked by progress in numerous areas for Samford, won't leave before further placing his imprint on the University he has led since 1983.
Even as Corts made his retirement date official Thursday, Samford Board of Trustees chairman Bill Stevens announced a fund-raising effort that Corts will inaugurate to add some $50-$60 million in campus facilities. At its spring meeting Thursday, April 14, the Board approved:
• Construction of a 6000-seat arena/fitness center for intercollegiate athletics and major campus events such as commencement
• A second phase of restructuring for Ralph W. Beeson University Center.
• Refurbishing of Seibert Hall for greater student use.
• Building of a four-story parking deck adjacent to Wright Center, and a lot with 320 new parking spaces south of Seibert Stadium. Plans for the latter project are complete and the construction biding process will begin within days. At an estimated cost of more than $1 million, construction is expected to begin before mid-summer and conclude early in the fall semester.
• Installation of a synthetic playing surface at Seibert Stadium. One of the new construction projects will use what currently is the football team’s practice field. A synthetic playing surface in the stadium will eliminate the team’s need for a separate practice field. The Sporturf company of Dalton, Georgia has been selected to install state-of-the-art synthetic turf at the stadium. Installation will begin within the next few weeks, with completion scheduled before August 1.
• Renovation of Samford heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems to make the campus more energy efficient. Three new heating plants will be installed in various quadrants of the campus at a cost of approximately $10 million. These facilities will address the current and growing requirements of the campus for efficient heating and air conditioning capacity. Construction on the first of these plants will begin along with the renovations of Robinson Hall, home of Cumberland School of Law. That facility will receive a new, efficient HVAC system at a cost of $3.2 million and work will begin immediately after the close of the spring semester. This massive undertaking will require many offices to be temporarily relocated to Brooks or Russell Halls. The project should be completed before the fall semester.
Corts announced his retirement plans to a joint meeting of the Board of Trustees and Samford Board of Overseers, and immediately afterward to a gathering of students, faculty and staff. He noted that by May of 2006 he will have served 23 years, "time for fresh vision and new energy" in the president's office.
"When I was a teenager, I thought a lot about which life was the more important: the life of action, or the life of contemplation," he said. "Obviously, for the three-plus decades I have been the head of an institution of higher learning, I have had no choice but to follow the life of action. I look forward to pursuing the vita contemplativa, once I am out of office."
He noted that the job of president "stirs up within you a lot of intensity and anxiety, and it keeps you running to try to achieve your personal best, and to try to do the best for the University. I'd like to think I have earned a big, long sigh!"
But before then, he added, "the Board has cooked up some terrific new plans." He added, "I intend to get a lot accomplished" during the next year.
"I consider myself a very blessed man," Corts said, "because I have been privileged to do what I wanted to do, and what I felt was the work given me to do, and I have enjoyed it! I have loved the students. This is a great faculty, in terms of professional skill and in terms of personality. This institution has a great constituency in the people of Birmingham and of Alabama, and especially in Alabama Baptists."
Corts became Samford's 17th president after nine years as president of Wingate College in North Carolina. He is the longest tenured senior college president in Alabama and among member institutions of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.
"Samford is a finer University than it was in 1983," said Stevens. "Dr. and Mrs. Corts would be the first to say that this has been a team effort, but Samford has made a giant leap forward in the past 20 years--proportionally, it may have made as great progress as any university in America."
At the information session following the trustee meeting, Stevens compared the Board's action on the construction projects to a "leap of faith. Not since the campus was moved from East Lake to Homewood in the mid-1950s has our Board made this kind of courageous commitment to the future," said Stevens.
Architects are completing drawings for the arena now, Stevens said, with the plan to begin construction by the fall. The facility will seat 5,000 for basketball and volleyball and 6,000 for such events as commencement.
"Those of you graduating in May 2007 and beyond should be able to celebrate graduation with your friends and families right here on campus," he said, rather than at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena, where Samford has held graduation since the 1990s.
The arena will be located west of Seibert Gym and Bashinsky Fieldhouse and north of Joe Lee Griffin Baseball Stadium. As part of the arena project, Samford will relocate its nine-court tennis center to what is now the football practice field on the western perimeter of the campus.