Samford University students and employees will have much to smile about as the school begins its 171st year. It is, after all, a place where faith and learning co-exist deliberately and in harmony.
"A friend told me many years ago that a Christian university is an institution with a smile on its face," said president Andrew Westmoreland. "It is with that irrepressible optimism that we open our doors for another year of service."
As the start of a fall semester beckons to acquiring new knowledge and lifelong friendships, it also celebrates cherished traditions laid down by generations of students and supporters that span three centuries.
"I am reminded at the beginning of each academic year of the blessings that we enjoy at Samford, many made possible because of the consistent and sometimes sacrificial gifts of Alabama Baptists for more than 170 years," said Dr. Westmoreland.
"Despite the problems of this age, I believe that those of us in Christ-centered higher education have never known a time when our services were more necessary, when our people were better prepared to teach and to serve, when our financial resources (never entirely adequate, to be sure) were greater and when our students were hungrier for the substance of hope," said the veteran Christian higher education administrator.
To that end, Samford strives to feed the minds and souls of its students with the wisdom and spiritual nourishment necessary to go forth and serve a needy world, as Westmoreland challenges graduates at each commencement.
Numbers of Note
Westmoreland and other Samford leaders, including the 42 Alabama Baptists who comprise the Board of Trustees, are gratified that the school's ambitious six-year $200 million capital campaign effort has made steady progress. Three years into the campaign, $138.4 million has been raised.
This fall's enrollment is expected to top 4,800, a new Samford high. More than 2,100 students will live in campus residence halls, another projected record. New and returning students will be welcomed by faculty and staff who spent part of the summer preparing for them in varied ways.
Some nurtured professional associations, such as the nine pharmacy professors who lectured at an Asian conference and discussed possible collaborative research with counterparts at Hong Kong Baptist University School of Medicine. Others assisted a student team that helped economically empower residents of underserved South African townships. Two nursing professors led a student team to Bolivia as part of a missions course. Their trip was chronicled by Lantern Vision video productions for broadcast on an All Over the World television program.
All together, hundreds of Samford students and faculty participated in summer missions in 34 nations on six continents. Only Antarctica missed having a smiling Samford presence.
Howard College of Arts and Sciences is supporting its burgeoning ESL (English as a Second Language) program with the launch of the English Language Learner Institute (ELLI), which will facilitate language proficiency for Samford's growing international student population. This fall, Samford will welcome about 180 international students, most of whom call China home.
More than half will attend classes in newly furbished space in Brooks Hall. Facilities include a classroom, seminar room, cultural events lab and office space. Classes focus on English-listening/speaking, reading, writing and grammar.
Samford Arts is enjoying enhanced partnerships with some of Alabama's most respected arts organizations. Collaborations with Alabama Ballet, Opera Birmingham, Birmingham Chamber Music Society, Alabama Symphony Orchestra and others will bring an array of guest talent to Samford stages, and the Wright Center Presents season will offer such performers as Ed Asner and Garrison Keillor. The visiting artists will work with Samford students in master classes, lectures and informal learning opportunities.
Brock School of Business is introducing a new bachelor of arts in economics degree program that will offer an economics education for students who are pursuing a liberal arts degree in a non-business subject. The business school recently acquired licenses for two Bloomberg data terminals. Considered state-of-the-art for professional money managers, the terminals enhance research and analysis undertaken by students in Brock's Bulldog Fund money management class.
Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies is rolling out a new sports and recreation ministry concentration in its department of kinesiology and nutrition science. Created in collaboration with Upward Sports, the program trains students how to use sports and recreation as a platform for ministry. An updated curriculum, materials and technology center reflects education students' specific requests--such as "smart" TVs for group work and presentations--that will help them grow as educators.
Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing will culminate a year-long celebration of its 90th anniversary with a series of events during Homecoming weekend Oct. 12-13. The nursing school had its beginnings in 1922 when the Birmingham Baptist Association purchased a hospital and nursing school from a Birmingham surgeon. It became a part of Samford in 1973 following a merger agreement with Birmingham Baptist Medical Centers.
Samford's McWhorter School of Pharmacy will welcome more than 120 first-year students who will join about 380 pharmacy upperclassmen. The new students will celebrate the beginning of their professional journey with the traditional white coat ceremony on October 5.
Beeson Divinity School looks forward to celebrating its 25th anniversary during this academic year, with major focus in the spring. Its fall calendar of events includes a Sept. 11 conference, Pastoral Praxis for Life, in conjunction with the National Pro-Life Religious Council; and the popular Reformation Heritage Lectures Oct. 30-Nov. 1.
This fall, Cumberland School of Law begins its 51st year as part of Samford. The law school moved from Lebanon, Tenn., where it was founded in 1847, to Birmingham in 1961. This academic year marks a passage for Cumberland dean John L. Carroll, who will return to the classroom in June, 2013 after 12 years as dean.
Dust is settling and buildings are taking shape to house 300 new student residence bedrooms on the west side of campus. The three new four-story structures and an adjacent parking lot are on the site of former student apartment buildings on Odum Lane. One hundred bed spaces will be available for students in January, with the remaining 200 ready for occupancy in August of 2013.
Editor's Note: This story was prepared for use in the August 9, 2012, Back to Campus issue of The Alabama Baptist.