Published on December 2, 2019  

Over the Thanksgiving break, we lost two exemplars, men who demonstrated through their lives the values we hold dear.

Boyd Christenberry died on Thanksgiving Day, “slipping peacefully into the Lord’s arms,” as his son, Bill, said.  As a life trustee for Samford, he served in virtually every imaginable capacity, including a term as chair.  After a remarkable career of senior leadership with Alfa Insurance Corporation, his retirement years were consumed with attention to his family (especially his dear wife, Sara), his church and the other causes important to him—especially Samford.  In expecting excellence from himself and from those within his influence, he was also a world-class encourager.  He was an avid reader of these Monday morning e-mail messages.  Often, within minutes of posting a message, my phone would ring.  “Andy,” Mr. Christenberry said, “if you keep writing these messages about people who are doing good things, everyone else will want to do good things, too!”  Mr. Christenberry nurtured us in our “development of intellect, creativity, faith and personhood.”

Pat Sullivan died yesterday morning, a few hours after Auburn’s triumph over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.  If you have recently moved to Earth from another planet, you may not know that Pat was the Auburn quarterback “back in the day,” winning the Heisman Trophy in 1971.  His highly successful career included playing in the NFL and coaching assignments at Auburn, TCU, UAB and Samford.  He became our head football coach in 2006, ultimately leading his teams to more wins than any Samford football coach.  As health concerns forced his retirement from football, he began serving Samford as Special Advisor for Campus and Community Development, a role he continued until his death.  His wife, Jean, was the greatest treasure in his life.  Self-effacing, kind, competitive, listening, indefatigable, Pat was all of these qualities, and far more.  Last week, in the final text message I received from him, he was simply writing to make sure I knew of the recent success of Devlin Hodges, our Samford grad who has climbed to the top of the quarterback pile with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “Our boy Devlin Hodges is making Samford proud,” wrote Pat.  I have no idea if Devlin knew yesterday afternoon of Pat’s death, but he led the Steelers to a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.  Pat couldn’t text me about the win this morning, but I imagine he was watching the game.  Residents of Alabama have to believe that there is a good cable sports package in Heaven.   

The world is better because of the extraordinary lives of Boyd Christenberry and Pat Sullivan.

About Samford UniversitySamford is a premier nationally ranked Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts and a distinct blend of 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 3rd nationally for student engagement and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranks Samford 34th among private universities in the U.S. for value and affordability. Samford enrolls 5,692 students from 46 states and 28 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.