Published on November 8, 2019 by Katie Stripling  
2019 Learning for Life Recipients
Learning for Life recipients. Not pictured, Mary Wyatt Crenshaw

Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education honored seven distinguished alumni and two outstanding faculty members at its annual Learning for Life awards dinner November 7. The honorees were selected based on their professional accomplishments and their commitment to impacting communities and the world for Christ. 

“This year’s recipients exemplify our Orlean Beeson School of Education mission and have demonstrated significant impact by investing their gifts and talents into enriching our society,” said Orlean Beeson School of Education Interim Dean and Samford University Senior Associate Provost J. Howard Finch. “It is our privilege to recognize their contributions with the school’s highest honors.”

Learning for Life recipients, all of whom are education school alumni, represent a variety of professional backgrounds. They serve, or have served, as CEOs, K-12 teachers, principals, writers, ministry leaders, administrators and volunteers. Although their professional journeys are uniquely different, they share a common commitment to investing their lives in service to others and a passion for education.

2019 Learning for Life Honorees

  • Mary Wyatt Crenshaw ’00
  • Heather Hurt ’13
  • Alice Laurendine ’95, ’01
  • John Lowry ’14
  • Renee Pitts ’95, ’98
  • Chandra Sparks Splond ’17
  • Pat Wingfield ’66

Orlean Beeson Award

This year, the school introduced a new honor, the Orlean Beeson Awards. The award, named in memory of the school’s beloved benefactor and namesake, recognizes faculty, staff and friends who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to serving education students and furthering the school’s mission.

Inaugural recipients of the Orlean Beeson Award include Jeanie Box, professor and former dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education and Monique Gardner Witherspoon, associate dean, graduate admission officer, and director of the Master of Science in Educational Leadership: Policy, Organizations and Leadership program.

2019 Orlean Beeson Awards Recipients
Orlean Beeson Award recipients Jeanie Box and Monique Gardner Witherspoon.

Scholarship recipient Dadron Ham shared his Samford story with attendees during the dinner. Ham serves as vice principal of Washington K-8 School in Birmingham, Ala. and is currently pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership at Samford. A third generation educator with a passion for investing in young lives, Ham has spent nearly two decades serving Birmingham City and Jefferson County elementary school students as a teacher and administrator. He shared his path to finding his calling and celebrated the individuals who have contributed to his success.    

Alumni relations coordinator and previous Learning for Life honoree Kathy Acton joined Finch in presenting Learning for Life honorees with a certificate and distinguished medal of honor. Orlean Beeson Award recipients received a certificate and commemorative platter.

Following the presentation of awards, Professor of Educational Leadership, Jodi Newton highlighted the varied accomplishments of the 2019 recipients and the many ways they are making a difference. She encouraged all attendees to consider the example they set for others and to pursue lifelong learning. Associate dean Witherspoon closed the evening in prayer.

The Learning for Life awards dinner provides financial support through tribute gifts for the school to continue providing opportunities for future educators to pursue their calling to a career in education. To make a gift in honor of a recipient or an educator who has been influential in your own educational experience, visit

Learning for Life awards are presented annually. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.