Published on September 12, 2010 at 7 p.m. by Philip Poole  

Five new faculty members were confirmed by Samford University’s board of trustees in their regular fall meeting Sept. 10 in Birmingham.

New faculty members are:

Grant L. Gentry, assistant professor of biology. Gentry has a doctorate in biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and has been a research associate at Samford since 2006.

Belinda A. Isley, assistant professor of nursing. She has two degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, including a graduate degree in women’s health. Isley has been teaching adjunctively at Samford for the past 18 months and previously was a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham.

Victoria Smith Knierim, instructor in communication arts. Knierim has a graduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University and had been teaching adjunctively in Samford’s core curriculum since 2006. She also is coordinator of academic advising in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences.

Jennifer Layton, assistant professor of biology. Layton has been teaching at Birmingham-Southern College and Jefferson State Community College. She has a graduate degree in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Donna Seibels, instructor in nutrition and dietetics. She has been an adjunct instructor at Samford since 1990 and has a graduate degree from the University of Alabama. Seibels also will serve as clinical coordinator for nutrition and dietetics.

Pharmacy faculty member Paula Thompson was approved for sabbatical during the spring 2011 semester.

Trustees approved 340 members of various program and academic advisory boards and committees.

The board received the audit for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The audit result was an unqualified, or “clean,” opinion on the university’s financial statements and no material weaknesses were noted, according to representatives from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that conducted the independent audit. The final audit report should be issued within a few days.

“I am very impressed with how many people are involved in the financial process at the university” audit committee chair Jerry Newby, CEO of Alabama Farmers Federation/Alfa Insurance, Co., told board members. “There are a lot of good people [on the board] and who work in the business affairs offices that make our university stronger financially.”

Harry B. Brock III, vice president for business and financial affairs, reported that the university ended the fiscal year with a positive operating margin of just more than $3.4 million. The university’s net assets at fiscal year-end totaled $276 million, an increase of about $2 million over the previous year.

The university’s endowment totaled $212 million at year-end, the result of the 7.7 percent return on investments during the year. The total was up slightly over the previous year.

This is especially significant in the current economic climate, Brock said, and is the result of university-wide efforts to increase efficiency and cost-savings. Brock also credited the trustee investment committee for oversight of the university’s endowment.

Although official enrollment numbers won’t be able until after Sept. 17, trends indicate a record fall enrollment, according to R. Phil Kimrey, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. Retention rates for upperclassmen also are rising.

W. Randall Pittman, vice president for advancement, reported that the university’s annual giving for the 2009-10 fiscal year was $21.6 million, the second highest in recent history. Pittman especially noted increased giving from alumni, parents and trustees over the previous year.

Pittman also reported that “A Campaign for Samford” had exceeded $100 million in gifts and pledges toward the overall campaign goal of $200 million. The university’s development staff is emphasizing estate planning as part of the campaign, and about 20 percent of the campaign to date has come from estate gifts.

President Andrew Westmoreland concluded the meeting with a report of his overall assessment of strengths and weaknesses over the last three years. He noted through university-wide efforts significant gains are being made in financial stability, internal operating systems and student enrollment. He told trustees that he was “very confident” in the university’s future.

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 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.