Published on January 2, 2024  

Dear Samford colleagues,

Happy new year and welcome back to campus as we anticipate the start of the spring semester next week. Julie, Chloe, and I enjoyed hosting family for Christmas and New Years and spending a lot of time in the kitchen – something we don’t often get to do during the busyness of the semester. Several of you have asked whether the Taylors were able to enjoy our traditional Christmas breakfast of quail and biscuits – indeed, I traveled to Georgia just before Christmas to “acquire” the necessary ingredients, one of the welcome diversions the break afforded me. I hope you, too, enjoyed some of your own family’s traditions. A quick but sincere word of thanks to the Samford employees whose responsibilities required them to work over the break – thanks for keeping the campus safe and functional!

Right before fall commencement, the university announced Phase 1 of the Samford Horizons campus development plan, a phase that includes a new 513-bed residence hall for first-year students, two smaller residence halls totaling 140 beds for upper-division/Greek students, and an approximate 600-space addition to the north parking facility. These projects respond to current enrollment needs, and I fully expect that every bed and parking space will be full when the projects are completed for the start of the Fall 2025 semester. Please allow me to say a bit more about these important initiatives.

The magnitude of these projects may have taken some of you by surprise. Our board of trustees and the administration, with important input from University Council, have been working on a comprehensive update to the 2017 campus master plan for more than a year. When taken together, the projects in this phase of construction represent the largest single investment in campus infrastructure since Howard College’s move from East Lake to Homewood. The timing and urgency of this work is critical. Samford has enjoyed 15 consecutive years of enrollment growth – a record few universities can claim. Even so, the last new residence hall was built in 2017 (which added 75 beds for Greek students), and the last major parking project was completed in 2007 with the completion of the north deck. We were overdue for some significant expansion. Samford’s educational promise is tethered to a superb residential experience for its undergraduates and particularly strong supports for its first-year students, but our ability to meet those expectations was beginning to be challenged. This year, Samford’s undergraduate residency rate fell to 62% – our goal is 75%. First-year students are currently housed all over campus and, at times, in rooms meant to accommodate fewer students. Recent investments in the Caf and the new recreation and wellness complex represent additional improvements, either completed or substantially underway, to the residential experience for our students, not to mention the $110 million in major investments made in the last ten years to academic facilities.

Since the announcement before the holiday break, significant work has started on the residence hall sites included in Phase 1. Work on the parking facility won’t commence until this summer. Those of you who have driven Montague Drive on the west side of campus have seen major changes to the campus landscape. Both residential sites – the one just south of Vail and the other just east of Tri Delta – required substantial tree removal and utility work before turning the projects over to Robins and Morton, our general contractor. The changes are significant. Julie and I just finished walking both sites, and even though we can see through the mess to what will be amazing new facilities, the destruction required to make the sites ready is significant. You know that progress sometimes requires some short-term pain, and losing some of the picturesque sites that these new facilities will occupy makes us sad. I can assure you that we will maintain these construction sites well using attractive and informative barriers to sequester the work and noise. And, importantly, when completed, both sites will return the surroundings to their previous beauty and functionality. New sprawling pavilions, beautiful green spaces, and attractive public gathering spots are included in the plans. Recently, Samford released a story that describes our significant and ongoing commitment to sustainability and campus beauty despite the challenges of new construction projects.

The financial cost of these projects is also significant. Estimated at approximately $188 million, these improvements are very expensive. As I mentioned, the timing of these projects is critical, and that urgency requires us to make these large and unprecedented investments. All the projects we’ve prioritized in Phase 1 of Samford Horizons generate new revenue for the university. More beds and more parking will generate needed funds to help pay the debt service these projects will require and to support contemporaneous improvements we are also contemplating for Smith Hall, Vail Hall, and portions of Greek Village. This necessary timing and urgency will require us to tap into some cash reserves for the first few years of operation, but our business plan predicts that those cash reserves will be replenished in 3-4 years. Importantly, our university trustees have approved a business plan that will allow us to sustain our normal operating budget along with the incremental investments required by the first priorities identified in the Fidelitas strategic plan, most importantly the work to improve Samford’s compensation profile. As I mentioned in my December communication to campus, these new construction projects do not prevent us from moving forward with the plans to address the recently completed compensation study or any of the other projects already approved in Fidelitas. Nevertheless, it will be critical that we continue to engage in wise and conservative budget management and administer our financial resources with continued precision. Dr. Colin Coyne is planning a series of town halls this spring to provide more details on these issues and to answer questions you might have about our plans.

Finally, let me beg your patience and grace as we move forward with lightning speed to bring these projects to completion on the fastest possible timeline. Noise, inconvenience, changes to our normal routines, and, at times, a big mess, are all lamentable but understandable costs of progress. More communication is forthcoming, including changes to parking locations. To stay on top of very practical ways we can make the next 18 months more bearable, Jeff Poleshek will be convening a group of students, faculty, and staff members regularly to advise about ways to meet expectations and respond to suggestions for improvement. In the meantime, and throughout this process, you may communicate your suggestions or concerns by sending a message to

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)” I’ve never been more excited about Samford’s future than I am today, and I’ve never trusted the Lord more to graciously provide all that is needed to ensure that Samford and its people continue to impact the world for good. Thanks for your prayers, patience, and excitement for all that lies ahead. I’m grateful to be on this journey with you. I hope your first day back tomorrow goes smoothly.

New year’s blessings,