Dear Samford Community,

Like you, my thoughts in recent days have been dominated by the video of the horrific killing of George Floyd.  Sadness overwhelms my other emotions this morning.  Anger, of course, is fueled at least in part because the video of Mr. Floyd is one of far too many examples of injustice.  We feel the pain in the depths of our hearts.

Especially to our African American students, employees, alumni and friends, I want to express to you my solidarity—and the support of the thousands of families who comprise Samford—during these days in which painful memories are inflamed by recent, thoughtless tragedies.  We love you, each one of you. 

Systemic racism does not endure simply due to corrupt systems; it endures because of hatred within individual hearts, sometimes known and sometimes not, a hatred that corrodes lives, families, institutions and nations.  Hatred consumes all.

It remains important to me and to so many others at Samford to do whatever we can, day by day and course by course, to help each of us understand and practice the ways in which we can build a better future not just for ourselves, but for everyone.  We cannot grow weary in pursuing those goals.  I appreciate the dedicated partnership of so many friends, near and far, as we walk toward progress.

I am drawn today to a portion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, from the second chapter:  “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

It is ironic that we had planned to release today a story about a long-planned Reconciliation Memorial at the west end of the Quad, near Divinity Hall.  Throughout the past year, more than 50 individuals and groups representing a broad cross-section of university life determined the inscriptions on the memorial.  The style, an obelisk, is patterned after the grave marker for the man we know as Harry, an enslaved African American who lost his life by rescuing students—white students—at Howard College during a fire in 1854.  The memorial will forever remind us of Harry and other African Americans, enslaved and free, who have made significant contributions to Samford.  The closing of the campus due to COVID-19 kept us from observing a public dedication of the memorial, which was scheduled for May 5.  The Reconciliation Memorial represents our attempt to engage in honest conversations about our past, prompting hopeful consideration of our future.  It is only one step along this path, but nonetheless an important step.  You may read the story of the memorial here:   https://www.samford.edu/news/updates/reconciliation-memorial.

Especially today, you are in my prayers.  Be safe.  Be strong.  Be filled with grace. 

Andrew Westmoreland
President