Published on September 3, 2021 by Leighton Doores  
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Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education honored nine distinguished alumni, along with two esteemed friends of the school, at its annual Learning for Life awards dinner August 25. The honorees were selected based on their commitment to impact their communities and our world for Christ. 

“This year’s award recipients are innovative, passionate and dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others,” said Orlean Beeson School of Education Dean Anna McEwan. “It is our honor to recognize their many accomplishments and we look forward to witnessing the valuable impact they will continue to have on our community and the world.”

The Learning for Life award was established in 2015 in celebration of Orlean Beeson School of Education’s 100th anniversary. The award honors outstanding education alumni that have made a significant impact in the lives of others. The event also provides financial support through tribute gifts celebrating the Kingdom work of our Orlean Beeson School of Education students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. 

While the 2021 Learning for Life recipients are all alumni of Orlean Beeson School of Education, their experience spans a multitude of subject fields. The 2021 honorees have served in their communities as K-12 teachers, principals, ministry leaders, business leaders and volunteers. Although their career paths are unique, they have each used their specific skillset and passion for education to invest in the lives of others.

2021 Learning for Life Honorees

  • April Harris Finkley ‘19
  • Jacqnaii A. Finkley ’12, ‘19
  • Alicia Hunsberger ‘01, ‘18
  • Katie King ‘00, ‘08, ‘10, ‘15
  • Kathleen Needham ’14
  • Lori L. Sullivan ’79, ’82
  • Jason Allen Waltman ‘00
  • Jenny Anderson Waltman ‘98

The Orlean Beeson Award was introduced in 2019 to recognize non-alumni, faculty, staff and friends who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to serving education students and furthering the school’s mission. Named in memory of the school’s beloved benefactor and namesake, this year’s award was given to Liz Huntley and Honorable Drayton Nabers, both co-founders of The Hope Institute.

This year, a new honor was introduced, the Excellence in Character Education Award. Through this award, Orlean Beeson School of Education honors a graduate who embodies Christ-like virtues and excels in advancing character education in families, schools, and communities. This year’s award was given to Quentin J. Lee ’09, ’17.

Scholarship recipient Christa Chery shared her Samford story with attendees during the dinner. Chery is a junior in the human development and family science program and in the fast track master of social work. She shared with attendees that she is grateful to the individuals who helped make her Samford experience possible; she also shared that there are many alumni and current students who have stories just like hers. 

“If I was truly meant to be at Samford, I had to trust that God would provide for me even if I couldn’t see how,” said Chery. “After receiving a few scholarships from Orlean Beeson School of Education, my educational dreams seemed as if they could become a reality and there has been so much evidence that confirms that this is actually the place for me.”

McEwan presented the award recipients with a certificate and distinguished medal of honor. Following the presentation of awards, Samford University President Beck Taylor commemorated the many accomplishments of the 2021 recipients and praised them for the character they exhibit. Michael Hardin, provost and vice president of Samford University, provided the Invocation and Amy Hoaglund, professor and assistant dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education provided the closing prayer.

Orlean Beeson School of Education hosts the Learning for Life awards annually. To learn more or nominate someone you know for the 2022 awards, visit

We invite you to join us in celebrating the Kingdom work of our Orlean Beeson School of Education students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends by making a tribute gift. Your gifts allow us to continually invest in the success of our students, providing scholarships and academic resources where the needs are greatest. To give, visit:

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. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 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.