Combined Love for Samford
and Sports Leads to Record Gift for Athletics Department
Gene Bluemly has been close
to Samford for four decades.
Talk with Eugene
W. (Gene) Bluemly, Jr., a few minutes and you quickly learn
one thing: Samford University is special to him. For several
Gene grew up in Homewood and always had a good impression
of Samford, but he started to college at a state university.
After a while, he transferred to Samford, which he respected
for its "very high scholastic standing." He found
a real difference.
"At Samford, you're more than a number to your professors,"
Gene played football at Samford under legendary coach, Bobby
Bowden. He met his wife-to-be, Nancy Arnold, during Samford
student days. Over the years, he developed a great friendship
with his father-in-law, longtime Samford photographer Lew
Arnold. This helped him remain close to the school.
industrial management at Samford and began his career in manufacturing.
After several years, he changed course and joined Equitable Insurance
Company. It was a good move for him and the company, for Bluemly
went on to become Equitable's top national agent through his
own agency, Bluemly and Associates, in Birmingham.
He has continued his association with Samford over the years
and is a charter member of the school's Planned Giving Advisory
On May 2, during a convocation honoring Coach Bowden, Samford
President Thomas E. Corts announced that Bluemly had made the
largest gift to athletics in the University's history. The gift-for
$500,000-will be used to restore the Samford track and add much
needed weight-training and other facilities for athletics.
Bluemly said he didn't know his gift was a record. When asked
about his motivation, he said simply, "It was the right
thing to do."
The Homewood native has loved sports for as long as he can remember.
He has especially fond memories of Coach Bowden.
"He was a down-to-earth, God-fearing man you could talk
with like everyone else," Bluemly recalled. He remembered
with a chuckle that Bowden allowed no "cussing." Players
who forgot the rule had to run laps around the field.
"Bowden, too," said Bluemly. "When he did, he
would just take off and run. No one had to tell him."
During college days, Bluemly also worked for a transportation
company, which limited his time for social functions, particularly
dating. But that didn't stop him from driving his 18- wheeler
into Vestavia to pick up Nancy, who would ride with him on his
deliveries. The truck had no passenger seat, so Gene took Coca-Cola
crates for her to sit on.
Bluemly has encountered health problems during recent years and
is now confined largely to his home. His beloved wife, Nancy,
died in 1997 after a long illness, and their only child, Susan,
is disabled and a resident of Rainbow Omega Home.
And yet, Bluemly remains "an inspiration," said Corts.
"He has been enormously successful in business and has an
indomitable spirit that has surmounted a lot of difficulties.
His generous gifts will be a blessing to students, faculty and
friends for years to come."
Samford Athletics Director Bob Roller said Bluemly's generosity
will have a direct impact on every student-athlete and coach
"Not only will we have a first-class 400-meter track, but
this gift will allow us to expand our weight training facility
and add much-needed office and meeting space," said Roller.
"Gene has a sincere desire to help others, and he has proven
that with this gift."
Richard Duke L'73, Bluemly's tax attorney who also serves on
the Planned Giving Advisory Board, worked with Bluemly and Samford
Director of Gift and Estate Planning Stan Davis on technical
aspects of the gift.
"Gene was a good football player himself, and sports in
general is one of his interests," said Duke. "He wanted
to combine his love of Samford and his love for sports in the
Davis also praised Bluemly for the gift.
"Gene has every right to be withdrawn and bitter,"
said Davis, "but he's not. His outlook on life is an inspiration."
What has enabled Bluemly to remain so positive in the face of
"Faith in the good Lord," he says. "Otherwise,
you might as well hang it up."