Published on September 26, 2022 by Leighton Doores  
David Finn Scholarship

In more than two decades at Samford University, retired professor David Finn inspired and touched the lives of countless students.

Now, one of them is paying it forward.

Alyssa Barnes, Ph.D., associate professor in the Elementary and Special Education Department at the University of North Georgia, has established the David Finn Legacy Scholarship at Samford in his honor.

Finn was one of Barnes’ professors when she was a student at Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education. After graduation, Finn continued to mentor Barnes while she was a beginning teacher, graduate student, professor and, most recently, a friend.

“David was instrumental in igniting my passion for teaching students with special needs,” Barnes said. “He was also the first educator to help me consider the academic possibilities after college and recognize my potential to achieve these goals that I initially thought were unattainable. My life would have been vastly different if our paths hadn't crossed. The David Finn Legacy Scholarship is a small way that we can recognize the impact he's had on the field of education.”

Finn taught in the Department of Teacher Education in Orlean Beeson School of Education for 24 years and retired in April 2022. During his time at Samford, he was instrumental in the development of a special education degree program and served as the director for the Children’s Learning Center, a fully inclusive child development center on Samford’s campus for children of all abilities.

He also had the opportunity to foster educational efforts abroad, as he was able to visit such countries as Liberia, Jordan and Lebanon. He was involved in searching for a partnership site for a Samford campus in the Middle East, hosted workshops for teachers in Monrovia, Liberia, and developed conferences to optimize learning in child development, special education and administration.

“It is my hope that the recipients of this scholarship will carry David's enthusiasm and passion across the globe as they continue his legacy of improving the lives of individuals with special needs and their families,” Barnes said.

Barnes earned her master’s degree in special education from the University of Virginia and began her teaching career as an elementary co-teacher in a full-inclusion classroom. After earning her doctorate in special education from the University of Georgia, she taught at North Georgia College and State University for five years and was awarded promotion and tenure. She returned to the elementary setting, where she taught both general and special education and was named Teacher of the Year, before rejoining the University of North Georgia’s faculty in 2018.

Barnes’ family has served children with special needs for many years. Her father, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, worked hard to make sure that teachers and paraprofessionals working with children with special needs had the support and training they needed as children with special needs were integrated into general education classrooms. Barnes’ passion for serving kids with special needs led to her creating a park for children of all abilities in the middle of Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta.

When speaking of the Barnes family, Finn said, “I really am in awe of what they do, and I consider myself in the shadow of people like that. When this scholarship came to me, I wept. I couldn’t believe it, because they are my heroes.”

The David Finn Legacy Scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students studying within the Department of Teacher Education with demonstrated financial need. Preference will be given to those who have a passion for teaching special education and wish to travel abroad as part of their Samford experience through a Samford-sponsored program.

“I know that in David's 24 years at Samford, there are many other students he impacted,” Barnes said. “Providing the opportunity for other alumni and friends to contribute to this scholarship is a way that we can demonstrate our gratitude and collectively honor how much he has meant to us all.”

To join Barnes in supporting students in Orlean Beeson School of Education by making a gift to the David Finn Legacy Scholarship, 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.