Samford University president Andrew Westmoreland recruited from a variety of Samford and Homewood community ranks to help him present his annual university update to employees Monday, Aug. 22.
He got the idea, he said, from a Harvard Business Review article about “outsourcing inspiration” to those who were better able than managers to motivate employees.
Joining Dr. Westmoreland on the Wright Center stage were Homewood Chamber of Commerce executive director Tricia Ford and Homewood mayor Scott McBrayer, and from Samford: library director Kim Herndon, trustee Clark Watson, admission counselor David Presley, and sophomore Jenna Foyt and her mother, Sherri Foyt.
Each guest shared thoughts intended to inform and inspire employees as they embark on a new fall semester. The audience had convened in Wright Center after attending the traditional start-of-semester worship service in Reid Chapel.
Ford and McBrayer, both Samford alumni, underscored the university’s economic value to the Homewood community. Recent data shows Samford to have a $300 million annual economic impact on the region.
Ford, citing a good marketing relationship with the university, said the city’s wide diversity of merchants all benefit from purchases made by faculty and students. Her office was happy to supply 2,000 Homewood guides for Samford to give to new students arriving for the fall.
McBrayer, who came to Samford as a freshman in 1988 from small New Hope, Miss., and never left the Homewood area, noted that many others do the same. “They will be productive members of society and take leadership roles,” said McBrayer, who was student government president his senior year. He was elected Homewood mayor in 2008 after service on the city council.
Commenting on a recent re-zoning request by Samford in order to build more campus housing, McBrayer said that sometimes a decision involving change “is not always the easy thing to do, but is the right thing.” The best thing Samford can do to be a good neighbor, he said, is to start with good communication, which he complimented Samford officials for doing while the matter was being debated and considered by city leaders.
Such dialogue doesn’t always mean there is agreement, he said, “but at least the issue is being discussed.”
Secondly, said McBrayer, is the importance of honoring commitments made by the university.
“We will follow through on our commitment,” Westmoreland assured McBrayer and the Samford audience. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Westmoreland said he asked Herndon to join the lineup because of the wide array of campus services used by the library.
Those include, said Herndon, workers in facilities services, “who help us with problems that get fixed,” and events management, who smooth the way for the varied clientele that use the resources of the library.
Herndon also told how she was drawn to the job three years ago because of the Samford community in general and specifically the library staff, all of whom, she said, care deeply about what they do.
Watson, a Cumberland graduate and attorney with the Birmingham law firm of Balch and Bingham, shared insight on characteristics that a firm such as his seeks when hiring new attorneys.
Of course, they want bright people, he said, but the firm also considers how they conduct themselves and relate to people. A good attorney must know law as well as “a lot about a lot of things, particularly people.”
One of the best things about Cumberland graduates, he said, is that they take information, look at the plight of their client, and use that information to get the best result for the client. And, they’re good at it. “Cumberland graduates get good results for their clients,” said Watson, who called his time as a law student the three most formative years of his life.
Watson expressed appreciation to Samford employees for their work. “On behalf of the board of trustees, I thank you for what you do,” he said.
Presley, a May graduate who is a counselor in the Samford office of admission, finds it exciting to join the employee ranks of his alma mater. “This tremendous faculty and staff invested so much in me, and now I’m working alongside them,” said the secondary education major, citing the efforts of his academic advisors, faculty, student life staff, administration and others who invested in him.
The program ended with the mother-daughter team from nearby Vestavia Hills. Jenna, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major, told how she had originally wanted to go away for college, but Samford won out because of its size and close-knit community. “I wanted the faculty to know who I was,” said Jenna, who has not been disappointed. “My professors always have time for me, and they care so much.” They are highly qualified, and excited about what they teach, she said.
Her enthusiasm is not lost on her mother, who said her biggest surprise as a parent has been how much Jenna enjoys her classes.
“She’s excited about her professors, and the classroom environment,” said Sherri, complimenting the freshman experience for providing a solid foundation.
Jenna’s advice to incoming freshmen: “Do the work” and get as much as possible out of each course. “The fun and social life is great, but it’s important to invest in the classroom experience and your beginning.”
At the earlier worship gathering, University minister Dr. Matt Kerlin invited employees to take time to sing, pray and reflect before tackling the new semester.
Westmoreland brought the message based on scripture from Luke chapter 10, in which a lawyer asks Jesus Christ for the definition of a neighbor.
First, a neighbor is one who is is waiting and watching to see if someone will help him, to “demonstrate compassion and not just give rhetoric,” said Westmoreland. “We can go just steps from our campus and find neighbors who are waiting and watching to see if we live out the promises we made.”
In some cases, a neighbor may be one’s enemy, he said, recalling how a 2007 campus visit by Soulforce resulted in an opportunity to demonstrate love to the visitors. Christ calls us to love our neighbor regardless of circumstance or background, he said. “My neighbor may be my enemy until I love that neighbor.”
Finally, he said, a neighbor needs more than abstract answers. Sometimes, it’s easy to give advice, but difficult to go, to be and to act.
His neighbor, he said, is about to be the 700 new freshman students, in addition to new transfer students and others enrolled in Samford’s professional programs. They will be waiting and watching, and in some cases may have been our enemy.
“They are looking for us to show the love of Christ. May we do that every day this year,” he said.
The worship service included prayers by April Robinson, Renie Moss and Dr. Phil Kimrey, scripture reading by Garry Atkins, and music by Jared Ballance, Ruth Marie Ballance, Grant Dalton, Jeff Flaniken, Angela Flaniken, Dr. Joe Hopkins, Stephen Knight, Dr. Sherrie Lawhon, Eric Mathis, Jamie McLemore, Brian Pitts and Randall Richardson.
During a special prayer time, names of all faculty, staff and new students were read aloud.