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Monday Mission, August 19, 2019

We find ourselves at the week before the week, the week just prior to the beginning of another academic year at Samford, and I’m remembering that our work today is only possible because of the sacrifices of many people over the years.

On April 7, 1884, as Howard College faced bankruptcy and the meager assets were placed for auction, two trustees—W. W. Wilkerson and J. B. Lovelace—stepped forward, purchased the assets, returned them and allowed the college to continue. 

The world is better because of the sacrificial support of Samford’s friends.

Monday Mission, August 12, 2019

The Center for Sports Analytics at Samford is a relatively new invention, but under the guidance of Dr. Darin White the program has advanced at a remarkable pace.

For instance, internships for our students in the first year of the operation of the program included the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Braves, Legion FC and Coca-Cola sports marketing.  In a rapidly growing field, Samford graduates will be well positioned for leadership roles in the years ahead.

The world is better because of the direct engagement of Samford students in their fields of study.

Monday Mission, August 5, 2019

Good morning.

For those of you who have been around Samford for a while, you may recall that I usually send this message to employees sometime during the month of August as we anticipate the arrival of our new students.  It is personal, but I believe it is also an expression of our shared hope for providing a welcoming presence to the families we’ll embrace in a few days.  I’m still stunned by the opportunities I’ve had in life, many of them shaped through the support I received from faculty, staff and students in college, four decades ago.  Here’s my story . . .

Forty-four years ago this month, I loaded just about everything I owned into my Pontiac Ventura, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and hit the road from Batesville, Arkansas, 160 miles south to Arkadelphia and to Ouachita Baptist University.  As best I can remember, it didn’t occur to my parents that they might accompany me on that fateful day.  The reasoning was that, if I was old enough to go to college, I ought to be capable of driving there and unloading the car by myself.  Somehow it escaped us that we were supposed to come as a family, listen to a bunch of sappy speeches from administrators, and then hug each other as if we’d never be together again, this side of Glory.  I think I knew one other Ouachita student at the time.  I also knew my admissions counselor.  The first night in the dorm, I remember counting the number of days on the calendar until the end of the semester.  Whatever the number, I was relatively sure I couldn’t live long enough to see final exams.  I was lonely, I was surrounded by people who seemed to know each other, and I didn’t know the first thing to expect from college.  I can recall not knowing what a credit hour was, but being too embarrassed to admit it to anyone I thought might actually be able to explain it to me.  I remember the names of my student group leaders.  I remember going with the members of my freshman group to the home of a faculty member for dessert.  I remember standing in line in the student center, waiting to shake hands with the university president, Dr. Grant.  When we finally shook hands, he was very gracious.  He asked me where I was from.  I said Batesville.  He asked me if I’d considered staying home and attending Arkansas College, which was located in my hometown.  I didn’t quite know what to make of that; perhaps he thought I should have stayed home; but I said no, not really.  He asked me if I knew Dan West, the president of Arkansas College.  I think I may have said that I’d seen his photograph in the local newspaper.  He said, “He’s one of the good guys.”  I agreed, although having only seen his photograph and having elected not to attend his college, I felt my response was somewhat hypocritical.  Then Dr. Grant wished me well, which was my cue to move to the line for lemonade. 

That semester I discovered that I could be a decent student.  It was as big a surprise to me then as it is to you now.  I also discovered that I could fit into college life.  That was an even bigger surprise.  The environment that seemed so distant to me in August had begun to feel like home by December.  I found that I could make my way in a world totally unknown to me.  The lessons that I learned that first semester were among the most important of my life, lessons—four decades after the fact—that are helping me to live out a calling to be at Samford University.  A few years later, as I began graduate school, I also remember every detail of the first few days.  The middle is a twilight zone of papers and seminars, but the beginning and the end, I recall with almost perfect clarity.

There are two points to this little autobiographical narrative as we lock arms to begin a new year.  The first point is that I didn’t have to think very hard to recall each one of the details that I’ve mentioned over the past few paragraphs.  Forty-four years after the fact, those encounters are still engraved in my memory.  The point is not that I have a great memory; in fact, Jeanna will tell you that my memory is about shot by now.  It is simply that these people and these events were of great importance to an impressionable 18-year-old.  The students who will be arriving on our campus this week will be watching and remembering, and 44 years hence, they’ll still have memories of their moment of arrival.  The events of the next few days will be crucial to the development of these young people.  Let’s give them our best.

The second point is that the institution where we serve has a transforming nature about it because of the work that takes place on this little spot of ground in Homewood, Alabama.  Every college does.  That’s part of the character of higher education.  But those of us who work here testify to the unique power of this institution.  In this entering class of undergrads and in the entering cohorts in our graduate and professional programs are hundreds of students who are presenting their lives to us.  I’ll admit that what happens from this point largely depends on them.  It depends on the extent to which they apply, conduct, and discipline themselves.  But it also depends on us.  What will we do tomorrow, and next week, and this year to add knowledge and understanding to their lives?  It is a challenge worthy of everything that we can offer. 

Jeanna and I wish for you and for the members of your family the very best as we begin this time together.  May God bless you and strengthen you each step of the way, and may God bless Samford University.

The world will be better, Samford friends, because of the work you will do this year.

Monday Mission, July 29, 2019

Erica Jewel Littleton-Williams is a distinguished graduate of Samford, currently serving as a member of our Board of Overseers.

She’s a friend to many of us on campus and her list of accomplishments is long.  Above all, she’s a teacher—and she has now begun a new role, working though Mayor Woodfin’s office, as the Director of Educational Advancement for the City of Birmingham.  Take a minute to watch this introductory video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAYo5OgvWs8.

The world is better because of the competence and spirit of Erica Jewel Littleton-Williams.

Monday Mission, July 22, 2019

Many of us experienced a sense of loss when Dr. Chuck Sands left his faculty position at Samford a few years ago to join the administration of California Baptist University in Riverside.

A Samford graduate (and the son of our former pharmacy dean, Dr. Charlie Sands), Chuck was a highly respected member of our faculty.  One thing led to another for Dr. Sands and he is now serving as Provost at CBU.  A few days ago a friend commented to me of Chuck’s growing influence in the world of higher education.  We still miss him—but we are grateful that Samford played a small role in his preparation for life beyond Birmingham.

The world is better because of the significant contributions of Samford graduates.

Monday Mission, July 8, 2019

Beeson.

It is a name that has come to be virtually synonymous with Samford, given the breadth of the Beeson family’s investment in our university.  We are well aware that Mr. Beeson made a lot of money—and he gave away a lot of money, almost $100 million to Samford from the combined gifts of the Beeson family.  His motivation?  In his own words:  “It’s the Lord’s money.  He gave me the gift of making it.  I am not smart enough to make that much money on my own.  It’s his money and I’m going to give it back to him.”

The world is better because of the “giving back” of Mr. Beeson and so many other friends of Samford.

Monday Mission, July 1, 2019

Samford’s students and faculty are everywhere this summer.

David Parks of Beeson Divinity School’s Global Center, for example, reports that students in Nepal trekked to the Himalayas last month to visit the villages of ethnically Tibetan tribes.  They walked 46 miles and ascended 18,602 feet in elevation, teaching and preaching at a school along the way and working with area missionaries. 

The world is better because Samford people are so many places in the world, doing so much good and learning so much from others.

Monday Mission, June 24, 2019

The spirit of hospitality on Samford’s campus is so abundant that we often take it for granted.

As a simple and recent example, I received a message last week from a visitor to the campus (the father of a prospective student), including these sentences: 

I stopped at another point and asked a student about the education building.  He didn’t just tell me where it was – he insisted on walking me through it, and then showed me the renovations in the student building, as well as pointing out the dorms where my daughter would most likely be.  

Kindness is not accidental.  Thanks to the anonymous student who gave so generously of his time to a person he didn’t know.

The world is better because of the kindness of so many people affiliated with Samford.

Monday Mission, June 17, 2019

The first class of our Micah Fellows visited Northern Ireland at the beginning of the summer.

Bryan Johnson, director of the program, reports that the “students were able to spend time listening to former enemy combatants, both Protestant and Catholic, as well as experience how Belfast is still a city divided along sectarian lines.”  Here’s a short summary of Dr. Johnson’s report:

Our students will tell you they learned a lot about peace and reconciliation and how important that is to their own service work. The most important part of the trip was getting to spend time working with children and teenagers in Catholic and Protestant youth centers. Our hosts couldn’t emphasize enough how valuable it was to have American college students give these young people a sense of hope that they can finish high school and attend a university.  With University Fellows and Micah Fellows we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of being good ambassadors for Samford, for their families, for their country, and for themselves. These students, every one of them, took that seriously. They are mature beyond their years, trustworthy, kind, and entirely decent.

The world is better because of the calling of Samford students to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

 

Monday Mission, June 10, 2019

Quietly, happily, respectfully, a few dozen friends gathered in Cooney Hall last Thursday to celebrate Tom Woolley’s retirement from Samford.

Dr. Woolley’s exemplary contributions as a faculty member in the Brock School of Business framed most of his involvement with Samford, but in recent years he has served as our Senior Associate Provost.  He also gave thoughtful attention and support to the development of our Center for Science and Religion.  Tom’s interests span the breadth of all academic disciplines, so he was a perfect, natural choice to provide assistance in academic administration for programs across the campus.  Some of my fondest Samford memories are of impromptu conversations with Tom in my occasional wanderings through Dwight Beeson Hall, finding him alone in his old office and stopping for a moment, to realize 30 minutes later that one thing led inevitably to another.  Thank you for the gift to us of your time, Tom.  It passed too quickly.  You are always welcome here.

The world is better because of the faithful, meaningful, hopeful service of Tom Woolley.

 

Monday Mission, June 3, 2019

A few days ago I had the privilege of giving the (mercifully short) graduation speech for the Calvary Day School (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), where two graduates from the class will be freshmen at Samford this fall.

While in Winston-Salem, I connected with several recent Samford graduates to learn of their experiences following graduation.  Some of them are natives of North Carolina who have returned home for life and work and others are transplants to the region—but in every case I was impressed with the ways in which they are engaged in meaningful work and service.  Driving home the day after the graduation ceremony, my thoughts were drawn again and again to the inspirational stories of our graduates.  In a world of skepticism and turmoil, they offer hope. 

The world is better because the “intellect, creativity, faith and personhood” of Samford graduates.

Monday Mission, May 13, 2019

From Dr. Joe Hopkins, Dean of the School of the Arts:

Our senior students in Interior Design have worked to create a solution for a church community in the Dominican Republic.  Located in Santo Domingo, the project will become both home and education center for pregnant teenage girls.  In evaluating the work, a panel of professional designers had glowing words of commendation for the project, its professional quality, the care in understanding the needs of a different culture, and the potential impact of this facility.  For me, it is moving to see our students already changing the world and sharing Christ through real and powerful means; it is a small glimpse into the difference they are about to make through professional lives undergirded and infused by faith.  Through this project, Samford students have engaged the church community of a neighboring nation to offer hope and a new beginning to those who stand at the threshold of life decisions.  The project plan is inspiring, personal, responsible, and innovative.  I look forward to the day we can visit this facility in operation and meet those whose lives have been changed by the thoughtful design of Samford students.

The world is better because of the innovative, caring work of Samford students and faculty.

Monday Mission, May 6, 2019

Hundreds of friends attended an event Friday evening in celebration of the life and work of our founding, retiring Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Dr. Timothy George.

Earlier in the day, during his sermon at the Beeson commencement ceremony, Dean George fused scripture with the cherished architecture of Hodges Chapel.  He made reference to the martyrs in the alcoves, the saints in the dome, and even the vacant places into which we all must step.  These are “translucent icons,” Dr. George said, and we see through them to the magnificence of Christ.  In his concluding remarks on Friday evening, he quoted the theologian Karl Barth, comparing his own influence to that of the donkey used to carry Jesus to Jerusalem:  “I was permitted to be the donkey that carried this better theology for part of the way, or tried to carry as best I could.”  Whether in the imagery of the humble donkey, lifting up Jesus, or the translucent icons of Hodges Chapel, reflecting a deeper understanding of our faith, we find our own Timothy George.     

The world is better because of the faithful, mindful, humble service of Timothy George.

Monday Mission, April 29, 2019

Amidst much good news from our 2019 candidates for graduation, we learned last week that Mackenzie Fazenbaker, a senior accounting major who will begin the M.Acc. degree at Samford, was chosen to receive a prestigious scholarship from RSM, the fifth largest accounting firm in the United States.

She is one of only 10 students to receive the award nationwide, and one of two from private institutions.

The world is better because of Mackenzie and those who have taught her in the Brock School of Business and throughout Samford.

Monday Mission, April 22, 2019

Precious words from the mother and father of a member of the Samford Class of 2019, received this weekend:

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Samford’s faculty and administration.  A special thank you to professors Amanda Howard and Gregory Kawell for their mentorship, availability and caring attitude.  Our daughter thrived during her undergraduate studies at Samford due to the institution’s high academic standards coupled with a Christian-based value system.  Thank you for setting the bar high!  She is leaving as a very confident, self-reliant and highly motivated young adult.  During her four years at Samford, she was challenged academically, participated in a number of Samford-sponsored community outreach programs as well as other extracurricular activities.  She was able to discover her passions and grow both intellectually and spiritually through these experiences.  Consequently, she is well-prepared to embark on her graduate studies this fall. 

The world is better because of Samford’s all-encompassing approach to education—and the extra efforts of faculty members like Amanda Howard and Greg Kawell.

Monday Mission, April 15, 2019

Dr. Brian Gregory of our Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry told me last week of one of his graduates—Alex Davis—who was facing a very difficult decision regarding two highly-coveted graduate fellowships.

Alex is currently pursuing graduate study in physics at Auburn.  After careful reflection, Alex chose an offer from the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) program.  Last year, NDSEG made 69 awards from an applicant pool of 3,100, so the competition is fierce. “I know that there were so many amazing applicants and it is truly an honor that they would choose me,” Alex wrote to Dr. Gregory.  Congratulations, Alex.   

The world is better because of Samford’s commitment to academic, career and ethical competency.

Monday Mission, April 8, 2019

Patty Roark is a Financial Aid Advisor at Samford.

You’ll find her on the ground floor of Ingalls Hall with the other members of our competent staff in Student Financial Services.  Patty’s job is challenging, interacting with students and parents each day, pursuing solutions to their problems.  Last week as I dashed to the library to buy a cup of coffee, the mom of one of our students stopped me to ask, “Do you have time for some praise?”  She told me how, during her association with Samford through the enrollment of two daughters, Patty has offered consistent, caring service.  The person who told me this story is of great influence in her own community, but my guess is that Patty has no idea of that fact.  She respects each person, regardless of personal circumstances, offering kind and helpful attention. 

The world is better because of Patty Roark and our staff in Student Financial Services.

Monday Mission, April 1, 2019

Samford’s reputation is built as graduates demonstrate, throughout their lives, intellect, creativity, faith and personhood.

Dr. David Little of our Orlean Beeson School of Education forwarded to me last week this message from a recent graduate, now a first-year teacher in a school in another state, following her “summative meeting” with her principal and first-year teacher advisor:

“They both told me they could not believe I was a first year teacher! They said I had a great teacher presence, wonderful classroom management, great student relationships, promoted higher order thinking, and noticed that I focused a lot on social/emotional development.  All I could say was, ‘I had a wonderful master's program and teachers!!!’  Thank you for everything.”

The world is better because of the ceaseless investment of Samford faculty members in the lives of their students.

Monday Mission, March 25, 2019

While many of us are engaged in watching the basketball version of March Madness unfold, our friends in Samford’s Print Shop recognize that every day is filled with madness as their clients ask for impossibly quick results.

The staff is no larger than the number of refs required to officiate a collegiate basketball game—three—with employees Judi Moore and Alise Stone supervised by Lisa Dodd.  Lisa’s involvement dates to 1989.  The staff members earn double-double status each day:  double-digit service and double-digit speed.    

The world is better because of the slam dunk team in Samford’s Print Shop.

Monday Mission, March 18, 2019

At 12 Ashburn Gardens in South Kensington, London, dawn broke about six hours ago.

The property is known to us as Daniel House, and last night marked the first time that it has been inhabited by Samford students and faculty since an extensive renovation began last year.  Construction is ongoing, so access to portions of the house will be restricted for a few additional weeks, but the guests are now inside, safe and sound.  My thanks turn this morning to the hundreds of people who have made gifts to support the project, to the London-based staff who support the operations there, to our architects and contractor in London, and especially to Lauren Doss, Nancy Biggio and Jeff Poleshek, who labored long last week to prepare the house.  They’re headed home today.

The world is better because of the life-changing experiences that have occurred—and will occur—at the Daniel House.

Monday Mission, March 4, 2019

Last week I had an e-mail message from Porter Rivers, a graduate of two years ago.

In his senior year, Porter served as our SGA president, and it was especially through that relationship that I came to know him.  Employed by a local, successful business, Porter told me that he was going to be on campus on Thursday for a career fair (recruiting Samford students for positions within his company) and he hoped we could chat for a few minutes.  I arranged to meet him at the career fair, then we walked—in the rain—to take a look at the construction in the University Center, talking constantly during our few minutes together.  Porter was married a few months ago, he loves his job, and his future is exceptionally bright.  Walking back to my office—in the rain—I was reminded of the ways in which Porter’s life was touched here, and I was grateful for his family and for those who invested in him while he was a student at Samford.  

The world is better because of Porter Rivers and those who poured their wisdom and knowledge into him.

Monday Mission, February 25, 2019

This is the time of year when prospective students are coming to grips with one of the most significant decisions of their lives, their college choice, so it isn’t surprising that the campus is crowded in February and March with families, having conversations with admission staff, taking one more tour, and generally assessing their options.

 Last week I visited briefly with one of those families and listened as they related their observations.  I have no idea if the prospect will choose Samford, but if she does, I suspect it will be largely because of the interaction that she had with members of our faculty members in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences.  Sitting in on a couple of classes and talking with faculty members later, she left with a deep appreciation for the attention afforded our students.

The world is better because of the engagement of our faculty in the development of our students—and our prospective students.

Monday Mission, February 18, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to about 100 people gathered for a prayer breakfast in the town of West Jefferson, located along the northwest border of Jefferson County, joining Walker County.

The town itself has a population of slightly more than 300 people.  Although they lost their high school several years ago, they’ve managed to hold on to their elementary school (which has an enrollment of about 150 students).  Gathered on the morning of the prayer breakfast were emergency and law enforcement personnel from the area, the Mayor and other officials, the community’s Senator and Representative in the Alabama legislature, and other men and women who care deeply about the quality of life in their town.  Before and after the breakfast I managed to meet most of the guests and chat with them, and I was gratified—as I always am—when encountering the Samford connections in the group.  “My daughter graduated there,” “I know Jennings Marshall on your faculty,” “my grandchildren are there now,” “you’ve got a great school,” “Samford has been a positive influence on Alabama.”  Samford’s “community” extends to the largest cities on the planet and to towns like West Jefferson, Alabama.

The world is better because of Samford’s “service to God, to family, to one another, and to the community.”

Monday Mission, February 11, 2019

Last week several folks forwarded to me the most recent attempt to spoof my e-mail account so that it appears that I’m sending messages to random people with lines like, “Are you available?”

I did as I always do on such occasions, dutifully forwarding the messages to our friends in Technology Services so that they could do whatever it is they do.  Then I stopped to realize the extent to which I take these staff members for granted.  Each day they perform hundreds of tasks to maintain our systems, fix our computers and answer my inept questions—and they do it all with competence and grace.

The world is better because of Samford’s dedicated employees in Technology Services, who always answer “yes” when asked if they are available!

Monday Mission, February 4, 2019

Friday morning we lost a dear friend, William “Bill” Self Propst, Sr., one of the most successful graduates in Samford’s history.

Mr. Propst was a pioneer in the pharmacy industry, first opening his own store in Huntsville, Alabama, and later overseeing the installation of pharmacies in Kmarts across the United States.  As his career progressed, he purchased a small operation to produce generic drugs and built the business to the extent that it became one of the largest such enterprises in the country.  He will be remembered for his business acumen, but he would say that the greatest elements of his legacy are his family and the investment he made in charitable causes.  Among those investments is Samford University.  Mr. Propst was one of the most generous people I have ever known, and many of us learned significant life lessons from him.  We miss him—and we’ll see him again. 

The world is better because of Bill Propst.

Monday Mission, January 28, 2019

We are only one week into the spring semester and already—given the pace—I’m remembering these comforting, challenging words from a prayer offered last August by Dr. Ahinee Amamoo, Associate Professor in our School of Public Health:

In the hustle and bustle of the semester help us to stop and see the needs of our students.  Help us to minister to them as you see fit. We recognize that we are providing our students an invaluable education here at Samford, but help us to see and realize that each of our students come to campus with different needs, concerns and issues.  Use us, God, to show them your love and compassion and help us, help them grow closer to you. 

The world is better when, at our best, we are seeking to fulfill the hope offered in Ahinee’s prayer.

Monday Mission, January 14, 2019

If you are considering a trip to Kigali, Rwanda, a recent article in The New York Times offered “five places to go.”

Number two on the list is The Women’s Bakery.  If you drop by the bakery, you might encounter Rachel Carroll, a Samford graduate, the Program Manager.  Here’s the link from The New York Times, just to whet your appetite: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/travel/five-places-to-go-in-kigali.html.  Samford graduates are everywhere.

The world is better because of Rachel Carroll and the work done each day in The Women’s Bakery.

Monday Mission, January 7, 2019

A career passing total of 14,584 yards, now the record in FCS NCAA Division I football; FCS records now held for completions and attempts; leading the nation in 2018 in passing yards per game (389.4), total passing yards (4,283) and total offense per game (417.8); and now Samford QB Devlin Hodges is the recipient of the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player in all of FCS football.

He is the first Samford player ever to receive the award and it is only the seventh occasion for the honor to go to a representative of the Southern Conference.  When I wrote to congratulate him on Friday evening, he replied by shifting the focus elsewhere:  “What a great honor to represent Samford!” 

The world is better because of Devlin Hodges.

Monday Mission, December 31, 2018

Timothy George, Dean of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, offered a beautiful, challenging message to our December graduates at our winter commencement ceremony.

His closing statement to our graduates is an appropriate way to mark the end of 2018 and to embrace, as he said to our graduates, “the stewardship of starting all over again.”

Amidst the brokenness all around us, and sometimes even within us, we are summoned today to be faithful to God’s calling.  We are to be steadfast, persevering in discipleship so as to bear witness to the beauty, the light, and the divine reality that we shall forever enjoy in heaven.  We are called to do this in a culture that seems, at times, fragile and beset by dangers we cannot predict.  You will not do this perfectly—you will fail, as all human beings do—but reach out and claim the promise of God’s forgiveness.  Reach out and accept the gift of a new beginning, the stewardship of starting all over again.

The world is better because, through God’s grace, we may accept the gift of a new beginning. 

Monday Mission, December 24, 2018

In an interview published earlier this month in the Georgia Bar Journal, Court of Appeals of Georgia Chief Judge Stephen Louis A. Dillard, also the current President of the Samford Alumni Association, was asked the question, “why is Samford University so special to you?”

Our General Counsel, Clark Watson, after reading the Judge’s comments, said, “The opinion of Judge Dillard on this matter will not be reversed on appeal!”

Here are Judge Dillard’s thoughts about Samford:

Samford was the first place that I chose to call home, and where I met my wife and soulmate (we will celebrate 25 years of marriage on Jan. 2, 2019). It is the place where I not only received a world-class education, but also spent my formative years as a young adult. I love that Samford is a school where faith and reason are not at odds, and that the university cares deeply about graduating students who are well-rounded, caring, and thoughtful individuals, and who are committed to their faith and the common good. The values that were instilled in me at Samford are values that I carry with me to this very day, such as seeking to glorify God in everything that I do and treating every person with respect and dignity. Samford emphasizes service to others, and encourages its students to go out into the world and live out their faith. I received more than a degree from Samford. It is my forever home and an institution that continuously challenges me to be a better person. I would not trade my Samford education and experience for anything. It is an amazing university.

Thank you, Judge Dillard.  The world is better because of you.  Merry Christmas to all!

Monday Mission, December 17, 2018

Saturday morning, as I was checking final details in the Hanna Center prior to Commencement, headed the length of the gym floor to the hallways where students and faculty were gathering, I heard my name called from the stands.

 It was the father of one of our soon-to-be graduates from the Brock School of Business, leaning over the railing.  “I’ve been following you down the court, hoping to catch you,” he said.  And then he expressed, in a strong voice but with eyes that were melting, his appreciation for all that his son received here.  He concluded with a phrase that I hear so often:  “The investment was worth it.”  So this morning our story once again turns to the faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, parents, friends—and above all, to God—for creating and sustaining a university that is worthy of continued investment.

The world is better because of the abundant joy that is found, nurtured and shared at Samford. 

Monday Mission, December 10, 2018

The Samford Recruitment Team (SRT) is comprised of undergraduates who lead campus tours, assist with Preview Days, and generally support all outreach efforts to prospective students and families.

The students are easily identifiable when they’re working because of the red polo shirts they wear.  SRT member Shelly Fulks was not on “red polo duty” when she saw the family of a prospective student a few days ago, but she quickly did all she could to put the guests at ease.  Here is the description of her kindness that we received last week from the visiting family:

Kudos to student, Shelly Fulks!!!  She saw our family waiting to order food in the Health Sciences Building.  She offered her last two meal swipes to us since she was going out of town for the weekend.  After we ordered, she invited the three of us to sit and eat with her while she told us all about her Samford experience!  She really connected with our daughter and made her feel at home!

The world is better because of Shelly and all the students in red polo shirts who regularly practice the gift of hospitality to our guests.

Monday Mission, December 3, 2018

A few days ago one of our graduates, currently enrolled in a graduate program at Vanderbilt, sent a heartwarming message to Dr. Jonathan Davis of our Department of Human Development and Family Life Education.

After offering examples of how her courses at Samford had prepared her for the rigors of a graduate program, she closed with this sentiment: 

So, in this crazy time of the semester, and in the spirit of giving thanks, I wanted to be sure you knew how impactful and influential your classes were for me at Samford.  My graduate work at Vanderbilt is extremely challenging, but my HDFE background has served me well through each and every challenge. Thank you for helping me get to where I am today! 

The world is better because of the ways in which Samford faculty members nurture their students.

Monday Mission, November 26, 2018

Continuing Samford’s lineage of success of intercollegiate Ethics Bowl teams, our current band of students—Will Featherston, Sierra Outerbridge, Rowan Rosewarne, Natalie Tidwell and Jones Willingham—won the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament a few days ago, clearing the way for their entry in the national championship tournament in Baltimore in February.

To win the regional tournament, the Samford team defeated (such a harsh word in the context of ethics, right?) teams from Wake Forest, Ole Miss, Augusta University, the University of Maryland, Clemson and the University of Central Florida.  The team members thank their coaches—Mike Janas, Wilton Bunch and Chris Metress—for their wise counsel and support.

The world is better because of the vigorous learning of Samford students.

Monday Mission, November 19, 2018

Chris Hatcher, our head football coach, had a few things on his mind in early November.

Among his assortment of priorities was to work with his team, amidst unexpected adversity, to carve out a winning season (which occurred against East Tennessee State University last Saturday).  But one day earlier this month, Chris found the time to send a Samford jersey, on which he had scrawled “Go Dogs!” and “Chris Hatcher, Head Coach,” to a young man in a hospital in Atlanta.  The young man, a high school senior who already had his heart set on attending Samford next year, was seriously injured when the driver of another vehicle ran a red light.  His recovery is long and excruciating.  The young man wants to be an archeologist, not a football player, so Chris violated no obscure NCAA recruitment rule in sending him the jersey.  I’m not certain that Chris even knows the young man, nor his family.  But he saw an opportunity on a November morning, and he took the time to meet the need.

Chris Hatcher loves to win.  More than winning football games, however, Chris Hatcher cares for people.  I’m glad he’s our football coach.     

The world is better because of the winning ways of Chris Hatcher.

Monday Mission, November 12, 2018

Another airport story, this one from Dr. P. J. Hughes, Associate Professor in our McWhorter School of Pharmacy.

Here’s P. J.’s commentary from an encounter a few weeks ago:

Flying back home from a trip, my wife (Beth) and I are standing in line waiting to board our flight to Atlanta.  We are discussing travel-related things and a pilot who is in line in front of us turns around and engages us in pleasant discussion.  One thing leads to the other, and he tells us he’s based in Atlanta.  He asks where we are from, and we respond, “Birmingham.”  The gentleman then says, “Oh, my son attends Samford.”  I then told him I worked at Samford.  His face immediately lit up.  We engaged in a five-minute conversation regarding Samford, the wonderful community, beautiful campus, excellent academic rigor, but most importantly, how good he felt about sending his son to Samford.

The world is better because Samford people make possible so many great stories.

Monday Mission, November 5, 2018

Homecoming is a memory, but much of the recovery remains.

Tents and chairs still dot the Quad this morning, our backs are aching from the strain of the past few days, and the projects that were held in abeyance have now reached a level of urgency.  Hundreds of conversations with happy alums are a blur for me this morning, but they meld into a common refrain:  we loved Samford because of faculty who taught and inspired us and friends who cared for us.  The campus is beautiful, yes.  The progress is great, yes.  But we remember the people who touched our lives, then and now.

The world is better because of the dedicated faculty and staff and caring friends who have preceded us at Samford.

Monday Mission, October 22, 2018

Last week I wrote to you with a vignette about a voicemail message from the father of a prospective student.

Here’s another voicemail story, this time from the father of a recent graduate of our Ida Moffett School of Nursing.  “In only his second month (of employment at a hospital), they had an emergency where someone was nonresponsive.  It was my son who performed chest compressions and saved the patient’s life.  The charge nurse was there, was present, and commended him for it.  Again, it’s a testament to the outstanding training and education at Samford.  He’s too humble to tell you, but I’m a proud dad for what he did.”   

The world is better because of the competence, compassion and readiness of Samford graduates. 

Monday Mission, October 15, 2018

Sandra Wilson is our Veterans Affairs Certification Officer and Counselor.

She works each day with veterans and their families to assist in their pursuit of a Samford education.  Last week I received a voicemail message from a 30-year veteran who is also the father of a prospective student.  He simply wanted those of us at Samford to know of the quality of Sandra’s work.  “She really, really impressed us,” the father said.  “We don’t normally find somebody that is that dedicated and that enthusiastic and that positive.”  Because I am familiar with Sandra’s work, I was not at all surprised to hear these sentiments.  She offers this same level of service to each person she encounters.

The world is better because of the faithful, effective service of Sandra Wilson.

Monday Mission, October 1, 2018

I was lapsing into sleep on a flight this past Saturday from Heathrow to Atlanta when I heard a person behind me say, “She’s narrowed her choices to two universities.”

The next thing I heard was that “Samford University in Birmingham” was one of the two.  I pulled a business card from my pocket and turned around to hand the card to the mother of a prospective student, as the mom was making casual conversation with a flight attendant.  We exchanged the customary “small world” banter, then I tried to explain that I wasn’t really eavesdropping on their conversation (which I suppose isn’t entirely truthful). 

When the plane landed, we finished our chat.  In response to my question about why her daughter is drawn to Samford, she said that every encounter with Samford had felt very personal—and that it was clear that Samford is a place that values individual students.   

The world is better because of the goodness of so many people associated with Samford.  (By the way, I checked the definition of “goodness” just now:  “the quality of being good, in particular.”  It fits.)

Monday Mission, September 17, 2018

The past weekend is still unfocused for me, given the thousands of people who visited the campus for Family Weekend and the hundreds of conversations—some brief and some extended—that I had with so many parents and other friends.

As I was recollecting my memories this morning, one image stood out from the others.  It was a brief, simple exchange with two of our faculty members—Greg Kawell and Chuck Stokes—as I met them at about 1 pm on Saturday in the University Center construction site.  They had each finished their morning sessions with prospective students and families and they were carrying the boxed displays from their departments, but they couldn’t resist taking some extra time to examine the emerging details of progress within the UC.  We stopped for a few seconds for quick laughs, then we parted company.  As I walked away, I smiled as I thought of Chuck and Greg and the ways in which our faculty and staff live out the mission, vision and values expressed below. 

The world is better because of Greg Kawell, Chuck Stokes and more than 1,100 other dedicated faculty and staff members at Samford.

Monday Mission, September 10, 2018

Congratulations to our friends in the Brock School of Business upon the news that Samford students had the highest CPA exam scores and passing rate of any university in Alabama during the 2017 testing period.

Competent, caring, demanding faculty members, working with bright, persistent students: a good formula for success in every discipline. 

The world is better because of Samford’s approach to the development of intellect, creativity, faith, and personhood.