Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2006-08-30

Samford University thanked its top donors at a philanthropy dinner Tuesday, Aug. 29. Guests of honor were individual donors and representatives of foundations and corporations that have provided significant financial support to the University during the last year.

A record number of more than 400 guests enjoyed the evening at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center.

The program focused on the theme, "The Promise for All Generations," from faculty, donor and student perspectives.

Cumberland School of Law dean John Carroll, who first knew Samford as a law student in the early 1970s, acknowledged the "exceptional" quality of the institution and that no university can be great without people who support it.

"The real people who have made Samford as it is are the ones in this room," said Carroll, noting that as a dean who works alongside "the finest people who teach," he sees the fruits of the donors' generosity on a daily basis.

Donors Betty and Malcolm Miller of Birmingham find it easy to be supporters who applaud and cheer for the university on numerous levels.

"God has blessed us with relationships we share with faculty and students," said Mrs. Miller, citing friendships that trace back to Malcolm's college fraternity days with the late former alumni director Neil Shepherd. That longtime Samford connection helped result in the 1992 establishment of the Miller-Shepherd Piano Scholarship honoring Betty Miller and Shepherd's widow, veteran Samford music faculty member Betty Sue Shepherd.

Since that time, the Millers have met every Miller-Shepherd scholarship recipient as a freshman.

One recipient, senior piano performance major Dawson Hull of Jackson, Tenn., celebrated "the promise" in music for dinner guests. The pianist also demonstrated his talent as guests enjoyed the meal.

University Relations vice president Dr. Michael D. Morgan introduced lifetime giving society members.

Some 50 donors were recognized in Samford's Circle of Progress giving categories: the Harwell G. Davis, A. P. Montague, Lovelace-Wilkerson and Samuel Sterling Sherman societies.

Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland thanked donors for their past and continued support, committing to seek their input as a new strategic plan for the university is developed.

"People are more likely to support a plan if they have had a hand in creating it," observed Westmoreland.

Addressing his first Samford philanthropy dinner since he became president in June, Westmoreland suggested that the emerging mission may call for a Samford that is more national and international in scope than before.

"But at the same time, we must never neglect our home," he said, adding that Alabama friends and extended Samford family are all highly valued so that "miracles can happen."

The dinner program also featured welcoming remarks by Board of Trustee member Robert Holmes and his wife, Camelia; and invocation by Samford junior pre-medicine major Jason Skelley of Jacksonville, Fla. Dr. Don T. Sandley, professor of theatre and chair of the faculty senate, was master of ceremonies.

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. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 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.