prosper is not always possible-sometimes mere survival
is all there is.
has been the experience of Samford University, now in
the elite company of survivors: of 3,500 colleges/ universities
in America, it is among the 87 oldest still operating.
Its 160 years have not been smooth sailing. Other institutions
might claim endowments and bequests, initiatives and
attainments that made them household names and allowed
them special status; but, thus far, ours is a story
Samford history is littered with temptations to give
up and close. There was insufficient money when the
founders first launched the idea and got a charter in
1841. After the school advertised for students, the
first group showed up obviously ill prepared for college-level
work, so we began, inauspiciously, with remedial efforts
(1842). The Civil War carried off all the students,
Confederateüforces commandeered the campus for a military
hospital, and the school’s endowment, invested in Confederate
bonds, was “gone with the wind” (1865). A failed scholarship
plan landed the institution in bankruptcy court, and
finally, the ultimate failure and embarrassment, on
the sheriff's auction block (1884). Economic straits
kept government from putting up promised funds for a
new campus (1887). Overextension of credit set the institution
teetering a second time on the verge of bankruptcy (1896).
The Great Depression afforded no money for students
to pay, or for faculty to be paid (1932). Cumulative
debt for operating expenses nearly suffocated the school
(1939). A deteriorating campus and real-estate prices
stifled growth and improvement (1945).
But the vital signs were strong. Vision was intact.
Good people were at hand. Support of a caring constituency
was there. Friends, donors, churches, a concerned public-all
came to help in ways both subtle and obvious. And for
each crisis cited above, someone stepped forward with
a ray of optimism, the will to persist.
Having survived to this point, the stage has been set
for Samford University to prosper. The spirit and will
of those who sustained it over the past 160 years endure
still—in new buildings, new technology, new faces, new
ideas-and in old ideas such as the Christian faith,
the primacy of people, personal virtues, friendliness,
Southern courtesy and civility, academic quality.
Phillips Brooks once said, "The only way to deal
with your past is to make a future out of it."
Of the Samford University idea, now 160 years old, let
us make a prosperous future.