Posted by Philip Poole on 2004-05-17

Birmingham business leader and philanthropist John Pittman has been honored by Samford University for 50 years of service as a trustee.

The John C. Pittman Spirit Award was approved by Samford’s board of trustees at their spring meeting to honor Pittman, who is a 1944 Samford graduate and recently completed his 50 th year as a trustee.

Only one other trustee, the late Joe Davis Heacock of Birmingham, served longer. He served 66 years until his death in 1974.

The award will be presented annually at Samford’s spring commencement to an undergraduate student who “most completely unites during the student’s career at Samford those idea characteristics modeled by John C. Pittman,” according to a resolution approved by the trustees.

Among the criteria for the award are serious academic commitment, Christian commitment, personal physical well-being and involvement in campus life. The award will be funded through an endowment established by trustees and family and friends of the Pittmans.

In presenting the recommendation to trustees, trustee Harry Brock, a Birmingham businessman, said about Pittman, “There are very few people that I would put above him as a good, practicing Christian. If you’re ever in trouble, he’s the man.”

In accepting the honor, Pittman spoke of his deep love for Samford and its mission.

“This school has meant a lot to me,” Pittman said, “and the greatest thing was meeting Marjorie Holcomb on the old ( East Lake) campus.” Mrs. Pittman, a retired teacher, is a 1942 Samford graduate.

“But, I have never been so proud as I have been the last 20 years with what (Samford president) Tom Corts has done. There are a lot of education institutions in this country, but very few that honor the Lord Jesus Christ the way Samford does.”

While noting that he “has every intention of breaking Dr. Heacock’s record,” Pittman encouraged trustees to perpetuate Samford’s Christian spirit themselves. “Samford will be here long after I’m gone,” he said, “but I implore you and the generations coming after us to never let the torch die.”

The inaugural John C. Pittman Spirit Award will be presented May 22 at Samford’s commencement.


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.