A Team Since Freshman Days, The Bumpers Take Alumni Leadership

by Mary Wimberley

Bennie Bumpers and Sonja Johnson got to know each other while stuffing tissue onto a Samford Homecoming float their freshman year. The two 1963 graduates have been a team ever since. Marrying between their junior and senior years, they raised two sons while Bennie forged a successful career in risk management at Vulcan Materials Company.

Their teamwork takes on a new dimension as they begin a two-year term as co-presidents of the Samford National Alumni Association. They succeed Rod '67 and Paula '69 Hovater, who passed the symbolic mantle to the new leaders at the spring alumni council meeting in February.

Other new officers are Vice President Tom Armstrong '73, a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch, Birmingham, and Secretary Brooke Dill Stewart '95, an active Birmingham community volunteer and mother of two.

One challenge they've all accepted is to increase the level of Samford alumni giving, currently at 16 percent. The goal is to meet or exceed the current national average of 25 percent reported by private schools such as Samford.
"It's fortunate that Bennie works for a matching gift company," pointed out Sonja. "We need to encourage more alumni to check their company's policy regarding matching gifts. It's hard not to give when you know that your company will double your gift to the school."

Some companies may as much as quadruple a graduate's gift to an alma mater. Vulcan is among numerous companies of all sizes and categories of business that are sensitive to supporting higher education.
Bennie is from Jackson in Clarke County, where he and Sonja make frequent weekend getaways to a farm they've maintained.

He recalls that neither he nor Sonja had much time for campus activities as students because they both worked their way through school. "I worked in the bookstore, the cafeteria, and as a dorm counselor," said Bennie. "I also worked off-campus in a bank and a grocery store."

With Vulcan since 1967, he maintains a risk management staff of 14. He holds a Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriting [CPCU] professional designation, and has been state president and national director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society. He is also on the risk management advisory boards at Samford and Jefferson State Community College.

He is chairman of the Shelby County Civil Service Board, and is active in the Cystic Fibrosis and Head Injury Foundation.
Sonja hails from Havana, near Tallahassee, Fla. Discovering Samford, she admits, was "one of the smartest things I ever did. My pastor in Havana was related to professor W. T. Edwards. He told me about the school, I visited, and loved it from the beginning." After enrolling at Samford, she joined Shades Mountain Baptist Church, which was then housed in a small white building. Forty years later, she and Bennie continue to worship at the church, now in a sprawling complex at the same location.

Through the years, she taught kindergarten and preschool while their sons, Shawn and Doug, were young. Now, when she and Bennie aren't laying plans for the alumni council, she can be found on the tennis court.

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Maintained by University Relations. Last updated: June 18, 2002

Spring 2002
Vol. 19, No. 1

Seasons Staff

William Nunnelley
Mary Wimberley
Associate Editor
Jack Brymer
Contributing Writer
Sean Flynt
Contributing Writer
Scott Camp
Multimedia Graphic Designer
Donna Fitch
Web Designer & Editor
Janica York
Editorial Assistant
Caroline Baird Summers

Samford University Alumni Association Officers 2002-03

Bennie Bumpers '63
Sonya Bumpers '63

Tom Armstrong '73
Vice President

Brooke Dill Stewart '95

Seasons is published quarterly by Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, Alabama 35229, and is distributed free to all alumni of the University, as well as to other friends. Samford University is an Equal Opportunity Institution and welcomes applications for employment and educational programs from all individuals regardless of race, color, age, sex, disability or national or ethnic origin.