Posted by Philip Poole on 2014-06-11

Samford University will honor four graduates from three different decades with its 2014 alumni awards. The awards will be presented at the annual homecoming banquet Oct. 31.

Alumni of the year are Brenda Mitchell Hackney, Helen Shores Lee and Bryan K. Owens. Houston Estes is the 2014 Outstanding Young Alumnus.

Hackney earned an undergraduate degree through Samford's Evening College in 1990 and an M.B.A. in 1994. She is president of The Hackney Foundation in Birmingham and serves on Samford's board of overseers and the Brock School of Business advisory board. She and her family have contributed to scholarships and other projects at Samford.

Lee, a member of a prominent Birmingham family, is an attorney and was the first African-American woman to serve on the Jefferson County Circuit Court. She has published a memoir of growing up during the Civil Rights era and frequently speaks about her family's experiences during that time. She received her degree from Cumberland School of Law in 1987.

Owens is an internationally-known entrepreneur and CEO of Atlanta-based Owens Group International, Inc. His most public venture is Unclaimed Baggage, a decades-old family business based in Scottsboro, Ala., that has attracted international media attention. Owens received a business degree in 1981. He supports the annual Samford Fund and several scholarship funds.

Estes, a 2004 graduate, lives in Nashville where he is a claims adjuster with Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. He is chair of the Nashville chapter of the Samford Alumni Association, which he was instrumental in forming. Estes financially supports the history department, where he earned his degree, and several other projects.

"These individuals represent some of the best of the best that Samford has produced," said Gil Simmons, Samford Alumni Association president. "Their accomplishments professionally, in their communities and in service to their alma mater clearly reflect what it means when we say 'Samford, the world is better for it.' But, they also represent the more than 48,000 living Samford alumni who live, work and serve around the world every day."

Alumnus/alumna of the year is the highest alumni honor the university bestows, according to Molly McGuire, interim director of alumni programs. Recipients are nominated by members of the Samford community and selected by a committee of Samford Alumni Association representatives and university administrators. Honorees are distinguished in their professional careers, community and church involvement, and in their ongoing service to and financial support of Samford, McGuire added. 

The 2014 Alumni of the Year join 110 others who have been honored since the award's inception in 1956. 

The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award was inaugurated in 2009 to honor a graduate from the past 10 years for outstanding professional achievement, community and church involvement, and ongoing service to and financial support of Samford, McGuire said. Estes is the eighth recent graduate to be recognized. 

Profiles of the alumni award recipients will be featured in the fall issue of Seasons magazine. 

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 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 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.