There are many Samford University families that proudly claim multi-generational alumni legacies. However, there’s one family that may have set the Bulldog graduate record.
Anna Caroline Kirkland ’23 recently became the 50th person in her family to graduate from Samford when she graduated in April with her Bachelor of Science in Education from Orlean Beeson School of Education.
Her father, Keith Kirkland ’88, recounted how he discovered this legacy of graduates.
“I was talking to Brian Kennedy in admission years ago, and I think at that time, I knew of about 18 family members,” Kirkland said. “I mentioned that to him sometime along the way. He asked me if I could make a list. When I started, I realized there were more. I reached out to those people to see who I was missing. The next thing you know, I have this onslaught of names. It was just so many.”
The list Kirkland made is organized by graduation year and family relation. His grandfather had 12 brothers and sisters, so the family tree already had several branches. He also married into the Roebuck family, which holds its fair share of Bulldogs. When blended together, the list culminated at 50 with Anna Caroline, his youngest daughter. There was even a photoshoot held a few years ago to commemorate this impressive Samford family legacy.
Kirkland became a member of the university’s Board of Trustees in 2021, but his Samford journey began with his parents dragging him on campus for a tour in high school.
“Samford was not on my list of schools to consider,” Kirkland said. “My parents, who are also Samford graduates, drove our family around campus a few times when I was a kid. Other than one visit to Step Sing many years ago, I had never been to campus for an event. As a senior in high school, my parents brought me to Samford with hopes that I would at least consider it. They were church musicians, so the first place they took me on campus was to Reid Chapel to show me the pipe organ. I love that organ now, but I wasn’t particularly impressed then. As we walked around campus later that day, though, it became clear that this was the place for me. It was a God thing. Samford was my first and last college visit.”
When the business school brought on a new dean—current President Beck A. Taylor—in 2005, Kirkland decided it was time to become a more involved alumnus. Shortly after meeting with Taylor, Kirkland became a member of the dean’s advisory board, where he was part of renaming the school to Brock School of Business after Harry B. Brock Jr. He also started attending tailgates and homecoming celebrations with his two daughters, who both went on to graduate from Samford. Kirkland’s service to the university continues as a member of the university’s board of trustees, to which he was appointed in 2021.
The Kirkland/Roebuck family tree showcases graduates of different degree programs, different academic schools and even different campuses. There are several graduates in the family who attended the East Lake campus of Howard College before the university relocated to Lakeshore Drive in Homewood.
When sharing the impact of Samford on his own life and family, Kirkland ended with this sentiment, “God is here in many different ways. I’m so thankful for the environment the Lord provided here. This place is really special.”