Posted by Philip Poole on 2011-05-18

Nearly 50 years after the Samford name was attached to the institution’s name, Samford University is benefitting again from the continued generosity and foresight of Samford family members.

The university has received the proceeds from a multi-million dollar trust following the death of Virginia Samford Donovan, who died in January 2011. Mrs. Samford’s late husband, Frank P. Samford Jr., had established the charitable remainder trust in 1974 with a $2 million gift. Over the next 36 years, the trust paid 6 percent annually to Mr. and Mrs. Samford. The remainder that was given to Samford University earlier this year represented in excess of a six-fold increase from the original investment, according to university officials.

“This is just another wonderful example of the Samford family commitment to our university,” said university president Andrew Westmoreland. “Although their name is perpetually tied to the institution in many ways, this latest gift, established decades ago, is in its fruition going to ensure that their name and influence are carried forward by future generations of students.”

Samford’s board of trustees voted recently to use the trust as endowment for the university’s presidential scholars program, which will be renamed the Virginia and Frank Samford Jr. Presidential Scholarships. The trust will provide more than $230,000 in scholarships for the 2011-12 academic year and is expected to provide more than that on an annual basis perpetually, according to W. Randall Pittman, Samford’s vice president for advancement

This is the first endowment to be used specifically for the presidential scholars program, according to Pittman. Presidential scholarships recognize outstanding academic performance in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, high standardized test scores, and demonstrated leadership in high school, church and the community. Individual awards range from $7,000 to full tuition.

“It is fitting to have the Samford name tied to one of our most prestigious scholarship programs,” Pittman said. “This fund will ensure that we always have a source to provide scholarships to some of our most deserving and hard-working students.”

The gift also makes a significant impact on the university’s multi-year $200 million “Campaign for Samford.” New scholarship funds, which totaled approximately $29.5 million as of April 30, account for about one-fourth of the funds raised to date for the campaign, Pittman said.

Mr. Samford was the son of Frank Park Samford Sr., who as chairman of the university’s board of trustees was instrumental in the mid-1950s campus relocation from the East Lake area of Birmingham to the suburb of Homewood. In 1965, the institution’s name was changed from Howard College to Samford University in honor of the Samford family, who at that time were the largest donors in school history.

Frank P. Samford Jr., who died in 1986, was an attorney and followed his father as chief executive officer of Liberty National Life Insurance Co., now known as Torchmark. Both men were active in civic, business, political, educational and cultural affairs.

Virginia Samford Donovan was well-known in the community for her support of the arts. The historic former Town and Gown Theatre was named in her honor in 2000 for efforts in its purchase and restoration.

The 1974 trust was established with shares of Liberty National stock.

The Samford family connection to the university spans more than nine decades. Mrs. Frank P. (Hattie Noland) Samford Sr. was first named to the board of trustees in the early 1930s. Her husband became a trustee in 1937 and served until his death in 1973.

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.