Published on November 20, 2019 by Sarah Cain  

As the first black employee to hold a corporate vice president position at Alabama Power, Robert Holmes knows it was his relationships and faith that helped him to persevere through early racism in the workplace.

Holmes, vice chair of Samford’s Board of Trustees, shared the journey of his 40-year career in an interview with University President Andrew Westmoreland in front of students, faculty and staff at Reid Chapel. Holmes is the first guest of the new leadership interview series, “For the Good,” sponsored through the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.

During the conversation, Holmes discussed the challenges of growing his career as a minority in the 60s. It was the mentorship he received early in his career by the late George Howard that deeply influences his professional confidence and commitment to mentoring others today.

“George taught me to be more aspirational,” he said. “The turning point was the self-confidence he helped me to get. He showed me that he cared about me. Now I try to engage people and show a leader who cares more about them than myself… We need leaders of faith. We need leaders who are driven not by self-centeredness, but who are doing what they believe their calling is and see their purpose.”

The new lecture series pursues a challenge that Westmoreland set for students, faculty and staff when he opened the school year in seeking an equilibrium between confidence and humility in leadership practice.

At opening convocation in August, Westmoreland said, “I think that a key to ethical leadership is having both the appropriate humility and the appropriate confidence and finding the equilibrium between those two … This year I want us to work as a campus community on this. I want us to study it, learn from it, and become better practitioners of finding the right balance between humility and confidence.”

“For the Good” convocation conversations will interview leaders who not only excel professionally, but who have worked, and continue to build a Kingdom here on earth of which God would be proud. 

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.