Published on October 9, 2009 by Philip Poole 

Samford University has launched the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s 168-year history, with a goal of raising $200 million over the next five years.  The campaign, several months in planning, was announced publicly on Oct. 9, with $84 million already given or pledged, according to Samford President Andrew Westmoreland.

The campaign provides financial support for Samford’s multifaceted, multiyear strategic plan that was approved and announced by the university’s board of trustees in September 2008. The strategic plan and the campaign both support the academic priorities of the university and provide for the needs of students, Westmoreland said.

Key components of the campaign are funds for scholarships, academic programs such as endowed chairs and professorships, annual support of university operations and capital projects.

University administrators and campaign leadership acknowledged the unusual economic climate in which the campaign is launching. But, campaign leaders are convinced that the campaign can be successful.

“We are aware that these are tough economic times, and people might ask ‘Isn’t this a strange time to be starting a capital campaign?’” said Albert P. Brewer. Brewer, a former Alabama governor and retired Samford law professor, is campaign chair.  

“Our needs are even greater and more pronounced now, and the needs of our students and the opportunities that we have to minister to them are greater now because of these [economic] circumstances. This is a time when we must go forward with our campaign in view of those conditions. We believe that people recognize the needs that we have, that they recognize the importance of what we’re trying to do for our students by way of scholarships and enhanced research and facilities here. I believe that people are going to respond affirmatively and positively to what we’re trying to do because it is so essential that we do it now.”

The largest campaign component, about $65 million, is designated for scholarships. Funds would be used for existing scholarship programs, ranging in vintage from the one-year-old University Fellows for top academic students to the 80-year-old Samford marching band. Additional endowment would provide new program-specific and needs-based scholarships, Westmoreland noted.

Officials said scholarship funding is critical, especially in today’s economy, as Samford competes to attract top students.

“One very important goal of this campaign is scholarships,” said Samford Provost J. Bradley Creed. “We want qualified students to be able to receive a college education, which is one of the most life-changing experiences that any human being can have. That is why a significant part of this campaign is dedicated to scholarships to enable qualified students in need of assistance to come to Samford and have this life-changing experience.”

In addition to scholarship funding, the campaign also will support academic programs and faculty. About $25 million is earmarked in the campaign for faculty enrichment and academic programs. 

“As the largest private university in Alabama and one of the top private schools in the region, it is imperative that our faculty and academic programming reflect that status,” said W. Randall Pittman, Samford’s vice president for university advancement.

Income from endowed academic chairs and professorships would fund research and help to attract and retain quality faculty “to join our team of esteemed professors,” Pittman said. Other funds would be used to support existing or new academic programs in each of Samford’s eight academic schools.

An unusual component of the campaign is $60 million for annual support. Most major institutional campaigns focus on capital or new projects, but because tuition revenue alone cannot support a major university like Samford, annual giving to support day-to-day instructional needs is crucial, Pittman said.

“Tuition revenue is designated for instructional costs, but ongoing operational needs are just as critical,” he explained. “A sprawling campus requires care and maintenance. Library resources and school-based equipment must be replaced. Continuously changing technology needs must be met. Resources must be available for growth in student enrollment.

“Even with Samford’s prudent financial management, it is a challenge for tuition costs to remain affordable for most students while providing adequate funds for the university’s physical plant and other needs. That is why annual giving is so important.” 

The Cooney Family Field House for football, completed in August, is a capital project included in the campaign, Westmoreland said.  Other projects being considered are an expanded and renovated student center, residence facilities and academic buildings for Samford’s burgeoning student population.  Capital projects will be undertaken as funding is available.

A steering committee of volunteers, chaired by Brewer, is assisting the university’s administration with the campaign. Other members of the campaign cabinet are Paula Hovater, president, Public Affairs, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.; Eddie Miller, president, Bodine, Inc., Birmingham; Vic Nichol, CEO, Alabama Bankers Bank, Birmingham; retired insurance executive John C. Pittman of Birmingham; William Stevens, CEO, Motion Industries, Birmingham; W. Clark Watson, attorney with Balch and Bingham, Birmingham; and Birmingham community volunteer and philanthropist Elouise Williams. 

Westmoreland and Brewer both anticipate strong support from all Samford constituencies. The campaign already has been endorsed by a unanimous vote of Samford’s board of trustees.

“One might ask why the community should be involved in or support the Samford campaign,” Brewer said. “Samford is an integral part of this community and proud to be a part of the community. We participate in and provide many of the cultural activities of the community.  We’re good corporate citizens. We educate the young people of the community. So, the community has a real stake in the success of our campaign because of what we’re doing here at Samford.”

“We need the help of all friends of Samford,” Westmoreland added. “Certainly these goals are lofty, but they are attainable if the Samford constituency rallies around this great cause.”