Published on August 9, 2023 by Dakota Rice  

Alumni of the Year Headshots 2023

Samford University has named the three outstanding alumni who will be honored as the 2023 alumni awards recipients. The honorees will be celebrated during Homecoming weekend, which will take place Oct. 27-28.


Alumnus of the Year

Eric Motley

Eric Motley ’96 had been named Alumnus of the Year. Motley, who graduated from Samford with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Howard College of Arts and Sciences, serves as the deputy director of the National Gallery of Art. Prior to this position, Motley served as the vice president of the Aspen Institute. He also obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from St. Andrews University in Scotland. Motley authored a memoir in 2017 titled Madison Park: A Place of Hope, where he discusses his upbringing in the Madison Park community of Montgomery, Alabama, and the amazing power of gratitude, generosity, grace, and faith in God and each other. This publication led to Motley being the first alumnus invited to speak as a Corts Distinguished Author. He also serves on the advisory board for Howard College of Arts and Sciences.

Alumnus of the Year recipients are distinguished in their professional careers, community and church involvement, and in their ongoing service to and financial support of Samford.

Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year

Isaac Cooper

Isaac Cooper ’12 has been named Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year. Cooper graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Finance from Brock School of Business and currently serves as the CEO and managing partner of IMC Financial Consulting. Cooper was a standout student-athlete while at Samford, playing as cornerback for the football team. Post-graduation, Cooper founded the Samford Black Alumni Association. He was also elected as chairman of the board for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 2019. Cooper was also the youngest person to be appointed to the Samford University Board of Overseers.

Recipients of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award are between the ages of 21 and 39, are distinguished in their professional careers, community and church involvement, and in their ongoing support of Samford.

Humanitarian of the Year

Jenny Waltman

Jenny Waltman ’98 has been named Humanitarian of the Year. Waltman is the founder, CEO and chairman of the board for Grace Klein Community, a Birmingham based nonprofit. One of their largest initiatives, FEEDBHM, over 2 million pounds of food in 2022 to provide 1.7 million meals through 47,053 volunteer hours and 240 local food donors. In addition to food, Grace Klein seeks to build community and demonstrate the love of Christ emotionally, relationally and spiritually. They provide tangible needs, operate community homes to host out-of-state serve teams, and partner with missionaries from around the world. In 2021, Waltman authored God Chose the Wrong Person, a memoir showcasing her journey, but also serving as encouragement to those struggling with feelings of inadequacy. She graduated from Samford with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies. 

The Humanitarian of the Year award is given to Samford graduates of true distinction, wide respect and acknowledged leadership. The recipients are recognized for having given selflessly and working tirelessly to better the lives of others and society at large by staying true to the Samford Mission.

For more information about the Alumni of the Year Awards, go to Samford’s Alumni Awards website.

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. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 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 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.