Published on February 29, 2024 by Kameron Brown  
colin hansen speaking at event

On the night of Feb. 20, the Samford University community gathered in Reid Chapel for Remembering Timothy Keller: An Evening with Collin Hansen. The 13th annual Tom and Marla Corts Distinguished Author Series delivered on its promise to provide this year’s attendees with an intimate look into the life and legacy of one of the 21st century’s most influential church leaders, Rev. Timothy Keller.

In May 2023, Keller passed away after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. The preacher and author is renowned for his teaching and ministry, as well as several New York Times bestselling works.

The late theologian was no stranger to Samford University, having addressed the university during a visit in 2016 for Beeson Divinity School’s Faith and Work Lecture. Furthermore, Keller was no stranger to Collin Hansen, this year’s distinguished author. Hansen, adjunct professor with Beeson Divinity School, was friends with Keller and currently serves as executive director of The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics.

In addition to his work with the Keller Center, Hansen serves as vice president for content and editor-in-chief of The Gospel Coalition. He hosts the Gospelbound podcast and has written and contributed to many books, most recently Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation which was published just a few months before Keller passed away.

Attendance of the Tom and Marla Corts Distinguished Author Series supports the intellectual and spiritual formation of students at Orlean Beeson School of Education and Samford University by providing access to authors whose works serve a higher purpose of elevating the good and educating the Samford community.

“Each year this event serves a variety of purposes,” said Kathy Acton, alumni coordinator at Orlean Beeson School of Education. “It is a chance for us to support student scholarships and to carry out Tom and Marla Corts’ passion for literacy, but it is also a time for us to come together as a Samford family to enrich our faith and learn more about compelling subjects that advance knowledge in our campus community.”

Faith formation is a cornerstone of Samford University and is the key to the School of Education’s success in producing the highest quality graduates prepared to face the increasing challenges in the fields of teacher education, leadership, and human development and family science.

Audiences of this year’s Corts Series received a taste of this commitment to continual learning and faith formation. Hansen detailed how Keller’s spiritual and intellectual formation was cultivated during his college years and remarked on the qualities that not only made Keller an excellent teacher but can serve as a model for education institutions.

“He was humble and he was curious, and I believe that is the best of the liberal arts education,” said Hansen.

Hansen continued to remark on the liberal arts education and why Samford remains a place where successful ministry, purpose and passion can blossom and thrive, citing that Keller’s spiritual and intellectual formation came primarily from the communities he found himself growing and learning in.

“Ministry is a matter of the heart, that is one of the main reasons we have learned so much from Tim Keller. He brought the head and the heart together, he learned to do that in community, he learned synthesizing of the liberal arts in community. Let’s keep community central in our education and I cannot think of a better way to remember Timothy Keller,” said Hansen.

Hansen’s belief and Keller’s practice of participating in vibrant learning communities speaks to the heart of Samford’s mission and to the shared experience of many students.

“Hansen’s words not only inspired us, but gave us all a chance to remember and to mourn one of the greats, whose works and words encourage us all to know God and make him known,” said Anna McEwan, dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education. “Hansen’s message is a reminder of our priorities as educators to advance Samford’s Christian mission.”

The Tom and Marla Corts Distinguished Author Series is made possible each year through the support of community partners and guests. View this year’s sponsors.

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.