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Monday Mission, June 15, 2020

A few days ago, faculty from our Orlean Beeson School of Education and the Hope Institute joined colleagues from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, the University of Alabama and Lipscomb University to sponsor an event called “Character Convening.”

 The sessions enabled faculty from the institutions to discuss current research and practice of character education at colleges and universities.  Samford is at the forefront of these discussions.  You may read about the conference here:

The world is better because of the character-building work of our Samford faculty.

Monday Mission, May 18, 2020

From Paige Mathis, who oversees our academic services for student-athletes:

our overall grade point averages for student-athletes for Spring 2020 were the highest on record, with 211 students earning GPAs between 3.0 and 3.99 and 54 students earning GPAs of 4.0.

The world is better because of the hard work of our students, faculty and academic support personnel.

Monday Mission, May 11, 2020

So many stories have accumulated in my mind over the past two months that it is impossible to retrieve just one to illustrate the interaction of our faculty and students during a period that might be characterized as both our greatest challenge and our greatest victory.

One line, however, stands out and I regret that I can’t readily find the source.  But I remember the line.  One of our students, struggling, said of one of her faculty members, “She just won’t let me quit.”

Praise God for students and faculty and staff members and families and friends that just won’t quit—and that do all they can within their circles of influence to prevent others from quitting, as well. 

The world is better because of the resolve of Samford people.

Monday Mission, May 4, 2020

Our story is told today through the voices of Samford’s A Cappella Alumni Choir:

The world is better because of the presence in our lives of a Beautiful Savior.

Monday Mission, April 6, 2020

On April 5, 1884, 136 years ago yesterday, the meager assets of Howard College (which became Samford University in the 1960s) were auctioned from the steps of the Perry County Courthouse as the college faced financial ruin.

 Two trustees, J. B. Lovelace and W. W. Wilkerson, purchased the assets at auction and returned them to the Board of Trustees, securing the institution’s survival.

We have seen hard times before.  We’ll see hard times again.   

The world is better because of the grit of Samford people.

Monday Mission, March 30, 2020

Even as we maintain hope, challenges abound—and reports come to us daily of the circumstances of our families.

Last night I learned of one of our students, residing outside Alabama, who arrived home a few days ago to find her mother, father and brother seriously ill.  She is taking care of the entire household while keeping up with her courses.  So far, she has remained healthy.  One of the student’s friends said this about her:

Her faithfulness to God is getting her through this hard time.  She told me yesterday that her prayer for this spring semester was for God to reveal himself more to her.  Looks like He has been doing that every day!

The world is better because God is bigger than our present circumstances.  Look up, be smart, practice discipline, remain compassionate.  Be Samford.

Monday Mission, March 23, 2020

Like many of us, Dave Luthin of our pharmacy faculty was having problems with molasses-like speed on the Internet at home.

He talked with Joe Zellner, instructional designer from our Office of Online and Professional Studies.  Knowing where Dave lives, Joe recommended an area with free wifi, with 43.95 Mbps for downloads and 10.36 Mbps for uploads.  Boom!  How did Joe come across this information?  “I had to try three different spots before I could connect.  Finally succeeded in a rear lot about 50 feet from the building, near a bank of windows.” 

Dave added, “we will get through this with folks like Joe Zellner willing to go the extra mile to help us succeed.”

The world is better because of all the people—that would be each of us—finding the ways to “get through this.”

Monday Mission, March 16, 2020

Philippians 4:12-13 . . .

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

We can do this, Samford.

The world is better because of Samford people, past, present and future.  To God be the glory.

Monday Mission, March 2, 2020

When discussing university rankings I always begin my commentary by saying, “there are many ways to evaluate the worth of a university . . .”

So I’ll begin this “Monday Mission” by saying, again, that there are many ways to evaluate the worth of a university . . . but College Consensus has recently named the online MBA from our Brock School of Business as the top online MBA program among Christian-related universities in the United States.  Other programs at strong universities are listed, as well.  Congratulations to Interim Dean Chad Carson and our outstanding faculty and staff for achieving this recognition.  You may read our news release here:

The world is better because of the competence of our people and programs.

Monday Mission, February 24, 2020

Along with Beeson Divinity School students and faculty and friends from the community,

Jeanna and I attended a standing-room-only session last Friday afternoon, listening to Dr. Robert Smith, Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity, speak about the elements of sermon preparation.  He initiates the process by reading the biblical text at least 50 times.  Next he fills notebooks with his own questions and thoughts, preparing himself intellectually and spiritually to “have conversations” with commentaries and scholarly articles.  Only then does he “begin” the composition of the sermon.  In the case of Dr. Smith, I suppose a 40-minute sermon must consume 80 hours of study . . . and a lifetime of preparation. 

The world is better because of the discipline, intellect and spirit of Dr. Robert Smith.

Monday Mission, February 17, 2020

Ramona Albin, Assistant Professor and Director of Advocacy Programs for our Cumberland School of Law, sent this message earlier today:

Cumberland's National Trial Team swept Region 6 of the National Trial Competition (NTC) with each team winning their final round and advancing to the nationals in Fort Worth, Texas in April. Each team went 5-0 on their way to winning the championship. This is the ninth time in the past twelve years that a Cumberland team has won the NTC regional championship and the fourth time Cumberland has swept the regionals in that time period, for a total of thirteen teams advancing to nationals in twelve years. 

The world is better because Samford is helping great people to become great lawyers.

Monday Mission, February 10, 2020

Jonathan Den Hartog is just past the mid-point of his first year at Samford—as Chair of our Department of History—

 and his recent book, Disestablishment and Religious Dissent: Church-State Relations in the New American States, 1776-1833, is already receiving strong reviews. Jonathan co-edited the book, a collection of 21 essays, with Carl Esbeck, Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law.  According to John R. Vile of The Free Speech Center, “Esbeck and Den Hartog have conceived and charted, and multiple contributors have delivered, a finely executed volume on individual church-state relations in the nation’s first 50 years and beyond.  It is likely to become the standard work on the subject and a provocative source for further research and reflection.”  

The world is better because of the scholarship of Samford’s faculty.

Monday Mission, February 3, 2020

Step Sing? Yes, it is that time of year.

While we are very much aware of the shows themselves and the amount of time they require, we are usually unaware of the co-curricular aspects of the production.  Remy Garfield, Creative Producer with our Media Center, sent me this message last week:

I just wanted to send a quick note saying how excited I am to produce the livestream of Step Sing again this year, especially the opportunity to be streaming the show on Apple TV. Of the past three years I have been involved with the production team, we add new elements each year to increase the production value step by step. It's an amazing opportunity for students like myself to work on such high quality productions and streaming on such well known platforms gives us a leg up in the competitive workforce.

Remy closed his message with, “always proud to be a Samford Bulldog.”  Good luck to Remy (and more than 1,000 other students) as they bring Step Sing to life and livestream this week.

The world is better because of the creativity of Samford students.

Monday Mission, January 13, 2020

Good news on a January morning: our students won the Musical Theatre Division at the National Opera Association Annual Conference during the Opera Scenes Competition in Cleveland, Ohio.

Students competed with a scene from Into the Woods, to be performed this April at Samford.  Congratulations to Lydia Yates (musical theatre major), Grayson Johns (musical theatre major), Blake Mitchell (vocal performance), Madison Hablas (music education), and Savannah Bracewell (graduate vocal performance).  Kristin Kenning, director of our opera program and Nicholas Robertson, pianist, accompanied the group.

The world is better because of Samford’s School of the Arts and our amazing students, faculty and staff.

Monday Mission, January 6, 2020

With so many aspects of our lives tethered to electronic gadgets, a fellow at Samford named John Bandy plays a more significant role each day.

His title is Chief Information Security Officer.  I don’t know when he sleeps because he responds quickly to every inquiry from me, regardless of holidays or late hours.  John has the unenviable task of keeping our data systems as safe as possible, which usually means he is having to ask us to practice safeguards we may find cumbersome.  Not a happy assignment!  Even so, he maintains a cheerful spirit—against all odds—and he comes to work every day asking, “what is the worst thing that can happen today and what can we do to prevent it from happening?” 

The world is better because of the vigilance of John Bandy. 

Monday Mission, December 16, 2019

Audrey Bates, a senior at Samford, wrote to me a few days ago to express her appreciation for one of those thousands of nice gestures that our people do with such regularity.

Here’s Audrey’s story:

When I arrived back to Samford after Thanksgiving break, my car battery had died.  On Monday night I was attempting to jump my car (and had no idea what I was doing) with no luck; that is when the shuttle driver, Tito, drove up in the shuttle and asked if I was okay. Within the next ten minutes Tito had pushed my car out of the parking spot by himself and jumped my car for me. Tito was about to go home for the night and took the time to help me start my car in the cold, and did it all with an incredible, servant-hearted attitude. Samford is incredibly lucky to have Mr. Tito! 

By the way, if you haven’t met him, the person referenced in Audrey’s message is Tito Haire.  He’s a valued member of our shuttle-driving team and perhaps the most popular person on campus.

The world is better because of Tito Haire and the great people who take care of our students and employees, 365 days a year.  (Actually, next year it will be 366.)

Monday Mission, December 9, 2019

On May 17, 2018, Jenny Codding, a nurse anesthesia student, was seriously injured in an automobile accident.

Her injuries were severe.  Yesterday afternoon, faculty, family and friends hosted Jenny for a reception to celebrate the fact that she will graduate with her degree this Friday.

Dr. Terri Cahoon of our faculty credits Jenny’s persistence, the support of her family and friends and a host of Samford’s faculty and staff for this success story.  “James Clement and Lane Smith worked with her regarding insurance and financial concerns; Allison Maddox and Jay Flynn had roles with her alternative schedule; and Amy Snow and many clinical preceptors, especially Samford alum, Mary Beth Burrell, supported her gradual return to clinical education,” wrote Terri, adding, “Relationships and the smallest kind deeds do make a difference.”

The world is better because of Jenny Codding and her army of friends.

Monday Mission, December 2, 2019

I rely on these weekly messages to tell stories of how Samford people have, in various ways, lived out our university’s mission, core values and vision.

Over the Thanksgiving break, we lost two exemplars, men who demonstrated through their lives the values we hold dear.

Boyd Christenberry died on Thanksgiving Day, “slipping peacefully into the Lord’s arms,” as his son, Bill, said.  As a life trustee for Samford, he served in virtually every imaginable capacity, including a term as chair.  After a remarkable career of senior leadership with Alfa Insurance Corporation, his retirement years were consumed with attention to his family (especially his dear wife, Sara), his church and the other causes important to him—especially Samford.  In expecting excellence from himself and from those within his influence, he was also a world-class encourager.  He was an avid reader of these Monday morning e-mail messages.  Often, within minutes of posting a message, my phone would ring.  “Andy,” Mr. Christenberry said, “if you keep writing these messages about people who are doing good things, everyone else will want to do good things, too!”  Mr. Christenberry nurtured us in our “development of intellect, creativity, faith and personhood.”

Pat Sullivan died yesterday morning, a few hours after Auburn’s triumph over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.  If you have recently moved to Earth from another planet, you may not know that Pat was the Auburn quarterback “back in the day,” winning the Heisman Trophy in 1971.  His highly successful career included playing in the NFL and coaching assignments at Auburn, TCU, UAB and Samford.  He became our head football coach in 2006, ultimately leading his teams to more wins than any Samford football coach.  As health concerns forced his retirement from football, he began serving Samford as Special Advisor for Campus and Community Development, a role he continued until his death.  His wife, Jean, was the greatest treasure in his life.  Self-effacing, kind, competitive, listening, indefatigable, Pat was all of these qualities, and far more.  Last week, in the final text message I received from him, he was simply writing to make sure I knew of the recent success of Devlin Hodges, our Samford grad who has climbed to the top of the quarterback pile with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “Our boy Devlin Hodges is making Samford proud,” wrote Pat.  I have no idea if Devlin knew yesterday afternoon of Pat’s death, but he led the Steelers to a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.  Pat couldn’t text me about the win this morning, but I imagine he was watching the game.  Residents of Alabama have to believe that there is a good cable sports package in Heaven.   

The world is better because of the extraordinary lives of Boyd Christenberry and Pat Sullivan.

Monday Mission, November 25, 2019

In Friday’s mail I received a handwritten note from the father of one of our undergraduate students, expressing his deep appreciation for all that his daughter is receiving at Samford.

 “Knowing she is safe and has a godly set of friends as well as mentors like . . . the education department faculty is a source of great pride and thanksgiving,” he wrote. 

I’m thankful this morning for people across the campus, including our colleagues in the Orlean Beeson School of Education, for their investment in the lives and wellbeing of our students.  

The world is better because of Samford people.

Monday Mission, November 18, 2019

This past Saturday we hosted prospective students and their families for the last Preview Day of the fall.

In the opening session, I did as I often do, calling a few current students (without warning) to the stage and then pitching questions to them.  My concluding question was, “What gives you hope?”  Grayson Hill, a senior from Cordova, Tennessee, had perhaps the most poignant reply.  I don’t have a recording of his remarks, but a close paraphrase would be along these lines:  we all struggle, and Samford is a good place for struggling.   

The world is better because of the clear, strong, humble, hopeful voice of students like Grayson Hill.

Monday Mission, November 11, 2019

After shaking hands with hundreds of our grads at Homecoming last weekend and hearing dozens of their stories, these are the thoughts that are seared into my mind this morning:

our graduates are profoundly grateful for the ways their lives were shaped at Samford—and each one of us, regardless of our title or tasks, is responsible for fulfilling the precious mission of this university.  From the two 99-year-old grads who attended the Golden Bulldog reunion to alums who returned from the Class of 2019, the connections are vibrant and eternal.

The world is better because of the ways Samford people live out the Samford mission.

Monday Mission, November 4, 2019

It is Homecoming Week at Samford.

On Friday and Saturday we’ll welcome thousands of alums and their family members and friends back to campus.  I’m reminded this morning of a recent conversation with one of those alums, chatting with me about his college experience.  He recounted his most difficult course at Samford, taught by a faculty member with high expectations.  “I never worked harder in college than in that course, and I learned more in that course than in any other,” the graduate said to me.    

The world is better because of the high expectations of the Samford faculty.

Monday Mission, October 21, 2019

At a dinner for Samford donors last week, I interviewed three of our current students—Taylore Miller, Edward Garner and Michaela Hunter—about their experiences this past summer, working with a summer camp for children, a Vacation Bible School in South Korea and a school in Uganda.

As we closed the interview, I asked about the person at Samford who has most influenced them.  Taylore spoke of the impact of Coach Todd Yelton.  Edward offered words of praise for Dr. Grant Dalton.  Michaela affirmed the work of Dr. Amy Hoaglund.  The accomplishments of the three students are extraordinary; the support they have received from faculty and staff illustrates Samford’s goal to promote the “development of intellect, creativity, faith, and personhood.”

The world is better because of Taylore Miller, Edward Garner, Michaela Hunter, Todd Yelton, Amy Hoaglund and Grant Dalton.

Monday Mission, October 7, 2019

Jay Flynn, University Registrar, and his staff encounter many interesting situations each day.

They seek to be helpful.  Such was the case in an account relayed to me a few days ago from Brannon Denning, Associate Dean of Cumberland School of Law, in which one of our recent law grads encountered an unusual problem.  Apparently the graduate asked for her diploma to be mailed to the home of her parents.  Her parents have dogs.  The dogs must be hungry because, according to the message Brannon received from the recent grad:

One of her parents’ dogs got hold of the diploma and chewed it up.  You read that right: she sent me an email saying that the dog ate her diploma.  She was wondering whether—given that it was a case of canine malfeasance and not negligence on her part—she might get a new diploma.  I emailed Jay Flynn and he didn’t hesitate.  Her new diploma is on the way.  Samford is a special place because of folks like Jay!

The world is better because of Jay Flynn.  And law grads.  And dogs.

Monday Mission, September 30, 2019

At a dinner with Dallas-area alums last week I had the pleasure of sitting with Dr. T. Bob Davis, a Samford graduate who has been practicing dentistry for—I think I heard correctly—52 years.

He spoke in loving, respectful term of his years at Samford and of the fact that his vocation, dentistry, has helped to provide a way for him to practice his passion and calling as an accomplished pianist and church musician.  The life and witness of Dr. Davis is yet another example of the positive impact of Samford graduates

The world is better because T. Bob Davis and 50,000 Samford graduates.

Monday Mission, September 23, 2019

Jeanna and I returned Saturday evening from a quick trip to the UK (just in time for the football game), after attending a seminar at Oxford and then spending some time at the Daniel House in London.

Away from the office for a week, I expected as I returned this morning the usual piles of mail and miscellaneous reports needing attention.  Included in the mail was an anonymous letter, which I began to read with the natural trepidation that accompanies the opening of unsigned correspondence.  This letter was from a person who signed, simply, “a grandma.”  She wrote to me to of her appreciation for Samford, with particular gratitude for the attention to her grandson by one of our faculty member.  “Mark my words,” she wrote, “these professors are very influential to these students.”  Her grandson “has been greatly impacted by the words of one . . . of his professors.”  “I don’t know the name of the specific individual.  To him, and for that matter, all of them, I want to say thanks.  You have won a grandmother’s heart.”

Her concluding paragraph:  “I’m sure he (my grandson) would be embarrassed to know that I have sent this letter; thus, his identity will remain undisclosed.  But at age 75, I think I have earned the privilege to encourage you and the generation we love so dearly.  We have the privilege to pass on the baton, and thank you once again for taking up that challenge and going forth.”

The world is better because of a grandmother’s heart—and the meaningful ways in which her heart was won by the competence, compassion and wisdom of Samford faculty. 

Monday Mission, September 16, 2019

As we welcomed entering freshmen and their families for orientation throughout the past summer, an important element of the program was a worship service for parents, held in Reid Chapel.

During the worship hour, parents and other family members were invited to complete prayer cards.  You may access the hundreds of prayers from family members for the Class of 2023 by clicking this link: Prayers for Class of 2023.  I hope you will take a few minutes to read the prayers and reflect on the significance of our covenant, as members of the Samford faculty and staff, with these families. 

The world is better because of the prayers for Samford, voiced each day by thousands of people, near and far.

Monday Mission, September 9, 2019

Dorothy Jean Adams began her service at Samford on a December morning in 1985 as a baker in the Cafeteria.

She progressed through a variety of roles, eventually becoming the head cashier for the Caf.  Along with way, she became “Ms. Dot,” one of the most familiar faces at Samford.  Ms. Dot managed her responsibilities well, welcoming hundreds of thousands of diners—and shushing occasional students away who offered a “dog ate my meal card” excuse while attempting to gain access.  Ms. Dot’s retirement was announced last week.  I miss her—and I’m grateful for her service. 

The world is better because Dorothy Jean Adams.

Monday Mission, August 26, 2019

When it rains, it pours, especially for our hard-working team members in facilities management.

After a grueling week and weekend of welcoming new and returning students to the campus, they were faced Sunday morning with a massive tree limb that had fallen across Montague Drive, near the Wright Center.  Throughout the day—Sunday—they dealt with other issues across campus.  Then last night—Sunday night—a transformer failed near Lakeshore Drive and most of the campus was without power.  Alabama Power responded as quickly as possible, assisted by our facilities management team members, who then had to go building-by-building to reset equipment.  Today, without having had time to rest, they’ll tackle whatever comes their way.  When you cross paths with them, please offer a word of thanks.     

The world is better because of Samford’s staff in facilities management.

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:

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


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.