Posted by Philip Poole on 2007-07-19

Samford University's board of trustees executive committee approved new faculty members and several facilities-related projects in their regular meeting July 17.

The late Blanche Louise Abrams was honored with the naming of a reading and media viewing room in Harwell G. Davis Library. Abrams made a previously-announced estate gift of $663,000 to Samford that included $100,000 for acquisition of books.

Fifteen new faculty members were approved to begin with the fall 2007 semester:

Carl Laurence Beckwith, assistant professor of divinity. Beckwith is assistant professor of religion and Greek at Thiel College, Greenville, Pa. He has a doctor of philosophy degree in history of Christianity from the University of Notre Dame.

Julie A. Head, instructor of nursing. Head currently is a pediatric nurse practitioner in gastroenterology and nutrition with Children's Health System in Birmingham. She has taught at Auburn University and has bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from the University of Florida.

Amy Hoagland, assistant professor of teacher education. She has been an adjunct instructor in early literacy at Samford and earned the doctor of education degree from Samford. Hoagland previously was an elementary school teacher in Leeds, Ala.

David Allen Johnson, professor of biology. Johnson has a doctor of philosophy degree in genetics from Emory University. He will be coming from Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan, where he has been teaching biology since 1989. His appointment is effective in fall 2008.

Andrew C. Konitzer, associate professor of political science. Konitzer has master's and doctor's degrees in international relations from the University of Pittsburgh. Most recently he has been assistant professor of political science at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

John K. Petrella, assistant professor of exercise science and sports medicine. Petrella has master's and doctor's degrees from the University of Georgia and is a research associate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. He also is an associate scientist at the UAB Center for Aging.

Patricia E. Neill, assistant professor of teacher education. She has a background in special education and earned the doctor of education degree in educational leadership from the University of Tennessee. Since 2003 she has been the director of schools for the Cumberland County School District, Crossville, Tenn.

Joseph Donnie Rankin, assistant professor of art. He has a doctor of philosophy degree in visual communication from Union Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio. Rankin has been an adjunct professor at Samford and also is a self employed artist. His work is found in private, institutional and corporate collections throughout the U.S. and has received national and international recognition.

Susan G. Sheffield, assistant professor of nursing. Sheffield earned the master of science degree in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is chief nursing officer and senior vice president at Physician Medical Center, Carraway, in Birmingham.

Lora R. Shelton, instructor in nursing. Shelton earned her master's degree in nursing from Samford. She is a staff nurse at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham and previously was director of Samford's student health center.

Ronald R. Shinn, professor of music. Shinn's specialty is piano performance, and he earned the doctor of music degree from the University of Alabama. He currently is professor of music at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala.

Jennifer Bondurant Steele, instructor in nursing. Steele is manager of education at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Ala., and has bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from Samford.

Larry D. Thompson, associate professor of art. Thompson most recently has been department chair and associate professor of visual arts at Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Ark. He has the master of fine arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of North Texas, Denton.

Mary W. White, assistant professor of art. White, who has a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alabama, has been an adjunct instructor at Samford. She is a free lance artist and photographer for a wide range of award-winning projects.

Abigail Smith Williams, instructor of communication studies. Williams, who is completing the master of arts degree in rhetoric at Georgia State University in Atlanta, also will be a debate coach. She has been a graduate assistant and coach at GSU.

Trustees approved several projects, including road and parking lot resurfacing and repairs; the new Millennium Integrated Library System software to "fully and properly support the academic and research programs" on campus; and additional projects to complete the new Pete Hanna Center scheduled to open this fall. In presenting the request for the Hanna Center funding, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland noted that the university's largest construction project in history is "on time and in budget" but that the additional projects are needed to "appropriately finish and equip" the Center.

In other routine business, trustees approved candidates for summer graduation and heard reports that giving to the university during the fiscal year ending May 31 was $15.2 million and that the university's endowment was $298.6 million.

Westmoreland reported that the university has received 729 paid deposits for the fall 2007 freshman class, which would be one of the largest in university history.

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.