Restoring Samford University’s Daniel House One Story at a Time

Published on June 13, 2017 by Karen Templeton  
art by Kaleigh W. Hartley ’14
art by Kaleigh W. Hartley ’14

Nestled in the same London neighborhood as the former homes of Winston Churchill, T.S. Eliot, Alfred Hitchcock and John Lennon is the 140-year-old Daniel House. 

The Victorian townhouse serves as the setting for semester abroad one of Samford University’s most popular study abroad programs for students and faculty-in-residence from the Birmingham campus. In addition to courses taught by Samford faculty in their fields, British professors lecture in offerings that focus on British theatre, history, culture and life. Students also participate in experiential learning courses or internships. 

Given the age and consistent use of the house over the years, the university is embarking on a renovation and facility improvement project to help restore its history and ensure it is accessible to students for years to come. The project also entails developing a plan to make better use of the home’s resources so that more students can be accommodated and most rooms can host dual purposes.

“We are looking at ways to maximize the space of the house and really use its full potential,” said Lauren Doss, director of Samford’s Global Engagement Programs. “Additionally, we’ll incorporate modular furniture that can be used for basic living such as a kitchen table that can be used during mealtime and then folded up and stored so that the space can be used for another purpose such as class time.” She noted that Daniel House is important to the university and student development. “We want to get started on this renovation project soon.”

As part of the Forever Samford campaign, fundraising efforts are targeted at $3 million for Daniel House renovations. To meet this goal, the Division of University Advancement and Daniel House alumni are identifying Daniel House Champions, former program residents who will reach out to their cohorts to encourage giving to the renovation project.

Daniel House Champions will focus on reuniting their study abroad cohort groups to help fund parts of the house most meaningful to them. As a team, making small recurring gifts will make significant differences and solidify their cohort’s mark on the house. For instance, a group of five making monthly gifts of $83 or a group of 10 committing to $50 a month for five years will fund the remodel of a bedroom or sitting room. This comes with an opportunity to name the room for a cohort, friend or mentor, leaving that history in the home forever.

“As an alumna, I know there are so many stories and memories we share among the group we traveled with,” Doss said. “This is such a great opportunity to really invest those memories in the home in a tangible way.”

Volunteers will be encouraged to share their stories and inspire their fellow cohorts to contribute and focus on a specific part of the home, stories building on one another to keep the beautiful row house standing tall into the future.

“I grew up not too far from Birmingham, and London was my first sustained experience in a wider world,” said 2007 alumna Mary Kathryn Covert Steel, Daniel House campaign chair. “Spending a semester at Daniel House transformed my life. It gave me the opportunity to better understand the global political landscape, European history, as well as religion and culture. It also provided the time for self-reflection at an important juncture in my life: determining what I wanted to do professionally, where I wanted to live and, to some extent, who I wanted to be.

“In speaking with my fellow alumni 10 years later, I found that our stories are all similar: they too considered Daniel House a life-changing experience and counted it among the highlights of their Samford experience. Because I received a scholarship to study at Samford, I know how meaningful it can be to provide the same educational opportunities to future students.”

This fundraising effort is a unique chance for Daniel House alumni, whether students or faculty, to reconnect with friends and build enthusiasm and momentum behind ensuring the Daniel House legacy, Steel added.

Doss also emphasized that anyone can support the Daniel House project, whether or not they studied or worked there, including alumni and friends of Samford who believe in global education opportunities and parents whose students benefited from academic experiences in London.

Those interested in volunteering as a Daniel House Champion or in helping in another way can contact Karen Templeton at ktemplet@samford.edu or 205-726-4580.

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ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked Christian university. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South, and Samford is recognized as the top-ranked university in the state of Alabama in national rankings published by Forbes Inc, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states and 30 countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference. www.samford.edu