Published on August 23, 2023 by Kameron Brown  

Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education had the distinct pleasure of beginning the fall semester with the school’s annual Learning for Life Awards Dinner.

Each year, the school of education recognizes distinguished alumni and friends who exemplify leadership in the classroom, school administration, churches, mission organizations, nonprofits, businesses, volunteer organizations and more.

“Though recipients’ career paths may differ, each award recipient has made notable strides in their respective fields and communities,” said Kathy Acton, alumni relations coordinator. “We are proud and thankful for the different ways our education graduates impact the world for Christ.” 

The celebration began with opening remarks from Samford President Beck A. Taylor and Anna McEwan, dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education.

The Learning for Life Award was established in 2015, in celebration of 100 years of Samford University’s School of Education, to honor outstanding education alumni that have made a significant impact in the lives of others. 

This year’s Learning for Life Honorees are:  

  • Elizabeth Brinkley – 2019 
  • Jessica DePaolantonio - 2018 
  • Peter J. Hughes - 2007, 2017 
  • Andy Jackson – 2009 
  • Katherine Rodgers – 2015, 2017 
  • Daniel Steele – 2002, 2005 

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 Marla Haas Corts.

The Excellence in Character Education Award was established in 2021 to honor a graduate who embodies Christ-like virtues and excels in advancing character education in families, schools and communities. This year, the award was renamed in honor of the late Jodi Newton, an admired professor and trailblazer in the field of character education and was given to Patricia Simpson.

Scholarship recipient Amelia Grace Waltman shared her Samford story with attendees during the dinner. Waltman, a sophomore in Human Development and Family Science, shared that growing up in a family devoted to ministry, she never dreamed she would be able to afford to attend Samford. However, through the generosity of those who invest in Samford students, Waltman declared that she is currently debt free and plans to finish her education at Samford and pursue a life in ministry.

“Through my time at Samford, I have been blessed to partake in community which shows me the love of our Heavenly Father. Through my major, I have bonded with fellow students who take time to study with me, and share weekly lunches where we talk, laugh, and pray for one another. I could author a book on how the faculty within the Human Development and Family Science department has impacted me,” said Waltman.

The award recipients were presented with a certificate and distinguished medal of honor. Following the presentation of awards, guest speaker Jenny Waltman, CEO, founder and chairman of the board of Grace Klein Community, shared the profound impact of what it means to be a “learner for life.” Monique Gardner Witherspoon, associate professor and associate dean, provided the invocation and Amy Hoaglund, professor and assistant dean, provided the closing prayer.

To learn more about this year’s award recipients and their remarkable accomplishments, view the Learning for Life program.

Orlean Beeson School of Education hosts the Learning for Life Awards Dinner annually. To learn more about this event or to nominate someone you know for the 2024 awards, visit Learning for Life.  

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. Make a gift.

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.