Posted by Philip Poole on 2008-07-18

Samford University's students and employees exceeded a $100,000 challenge from Birmingham businessman Harry Brock, resulting in $311,352 to various university funds.

Through the Brock family foundation, Brock committed to match up to $100,000 in new contributions to endowment from students and employees. The challenge was made at the end of a Feb. 21 convocation celebrating the recent naming of Samford's school of business for Brock.

Called the 1841 Mission in recognition of the university's founding and Christian mission, the challenge encouraged each student and non-donor employee to make a gift of $18.41 or more to the general endowment or the endowment of one of Samford's eight academic schools, according to Sheri H. Ransome, Samford's director of annual giving. Ransome coordinated the 1841 Mission project.

Many of the gifts were designated for scholarships, Ransome said, and the gifts benefited each of Samford's eight academic schools.

Although final totals have not been announced for 2007-08 annual giving, Ransome noted that faculty, staff and students gave about $479,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008, an 87 percent increase over the 5-year average for those groups. The increase could be tied directly to the Brock challenge, she noted.

"What a tremendous impact this effort made when our students, faculty and employees rose to the challenge of matching the challenge of making these gifts in just four short months," Ransome added. "These gifts, empowered by Mr. Brock's generosity, are the foundation for future similar transformational gifts to Samford."

Brock specifically praised the university's administration and academic deans for supporting the 1841 Mission. "The deans stepped up to the challenge, and the teamwork from President (Andrew) Westmoreland on down is what made this work," he said. "This broad participation should help Samford going forward in trying to attract additional gifts for the university."

Brock envisions a long-term impact of the challenge if current students will continue giving to Samford after graduation. "This is a good start, and hopefully some day we'll have at least half of our graduates giving back to Samford," Brock said.

Ransome said the university plans for the 1841Mission to be an annual giving opportunity, and she already is working to find a donor who will match Brock's challenge for the new fiscal year that began July 1.

Gifts to the 1841 Mission can be made online at or through Samford's university relations office, 310 Samford Hall, 800 Lakeshore Dr., Birmingham, AL 35229.

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.