Samford University

Samford University is a private Christian university in Homewood, Alabama.[4] In 1841, the university was founded as Howard College.[5] Samford University describes itself as the 87th oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.[6] It will become the 86th when its sister school, Judson College, completes its planned closing. The university enrolls 5,729 students from 47 states and 30 countries.[7]

Samford University
Samford University seal.png
Former name
Howard College
MottoFor God, For Learning, Forever
TypePrivate university
Established1841; 180 years ago (1841)
Religious affiliation
Endowment$327 million (February 2021)[1]
PresidentBeck A. Taylor
Academic staff
Students5,729 (Fall 2020)[2]
Undergraduates3,576 (Fall 2020)
Postgraduates2,153 (Fall 2020)
Location, ,
United States
ColorsBlue and Red[3]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division ISouthern Conference
Official Samford University logo - 2016.png
Bird's-eye view of the campus


19th centuryEdit

In 1841, Samford University was founded as Howard College in Marion, Alabama.[8][9] Some of the land was donated by Reverend James H. DeVotie, who served on the Samford Board of Trustees for fifteen years and as its President for two years.[10][11] The first financial gift, $4,000, was given by Julia Tarrant Barron and both she and her son also gave land to establish the college.[12] The university was established after the Alabama Baptist State Convention decided to build a school for men in Perry County, Alabama. The college's first nine students began studies in January 1842 with a traditional curriculum of language, literature and sciences.[13] In those early years the graduation addresses of several distinguished speakers were published, including those by Thomas G. Keen of Mobile, Joseph Walters Taylor, Noah K. Davis and Samuel Sterling Sherman.[14] In October 1854, a fire destroyed all of the college's property, including its only building.[13][15] While the college recovered from the fire, the Civil War began.[13] Howard College was converted to a military hospital by the Confederate government in 1863.[15] During this time, the college's remaining faculty offered basic instruction to soldiers recovering at the hospital.[13] For a short period after the war, federal troops occupied the college and sheltered freed slaves on its campus. In 1865 the college reopened. Howard College's board of trustees accepted real estate and funding from the city of Birmingham, Alabama in 1887 Faculty who remained in Marion, formed Marion Military Institute on the old campus..[16]

20th centuryEdit

In 1913, the college became fully and permanently coeducational. Howard College added its School of Music in 1914 and School of Education and Journalism the following year. The college introduced its Department of Pharmacy in 1927. At the time, it was the only program of its kind in the Southeastern United States.[17] During World War II, Howard College hosted a V-12 Navy College Training Program, allowing enlisted sailors to earn college degrees while receiving military training.[13][18] The number of veterans attending the college after the war boosted enrollment beyond capacity. In result, the college was moved to the Shades Valley in Homewood, Alabama. The new campus opened in 1957.[19] In 1961, the college acquired Cumberland School of Law, one of the nation's oldest law schools.[20] In addition to the law school, Howard College added a new school of business and reorganized to achieve university status in 1965.[13] Since the name "Howard University" was already in use, Howard College was renamed in honor of Frank Park Samford, a longtime trustee of the school.[13] In 1973, the university acquired Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.[21] Samford University established a study center for students to study abroad in Kensington, England in 1984.[22] On September 21, 1989, a Samford University professor, William Lee Slagle, stabbed one of his debating team students to death before going on the run; Slagle was finally captured six months later.[23]

In 1994, Samford's board of trustees voted to allow it to elect its own members. This gave the university formal independence from the Alabama Baptist State Convention, but until 2017 convention leaders retained ex officio seats on the board, were consulted on trustee selection, and the new trustees were presented to the convention for affirmation.[24][25]

Civil rightsEdit

As a private, segregated institution, Samford University was to some degree insulated from the activities of leaders and protesters of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and early 1960s. The officers of the Samford Student Government Association challenged a segregated concert held on campus by the Birmingham Symphony by inviting as guests the student government officers of nearby Miles College,[26] a historically black school.

Segregation by private universities was ended by the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the US Congress. Initially, the school's leaders declined to express their commitment to desegregation. For example, the university declined to apply for the NDEA Student Loan Program for 1965-66 because it would have to affirm desegregation.[27] Cumberland School of Law faced the greatest immediate risk of losing accreditation. In 1967, it admitted Samford's first black student, Audrey Lattimore Gaston.[28] The entire university proceeded with desegregation.[29] In the fall of 1969 Elizabeth Sloan Ragland became the first African American student to live on campus.[30] On June 1, 2020, the university announced the installation of a memorial honoring "the sacrifices of many African Americans for the mission and vision of Samford University even in days when their efforts were invisible or barely acknowledged" it specifically remembered Gaston and an enslaved servant named "Harry" who died while saving students from the 1854 fire.[31] A few weeks later, as a result of campus conversations in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Westmoreland created a university task force on racial justice.[32] The final version of this task force's report was approved by the university's board of trustees on April 26, 2021 and released to the public the next day.[33]

21st centuryEdit

Dr. Andrew Westmoreland was appointed president of the university in 2006.[34] That year, the Jane Hollock Brock Recital Hall was dedicated as part of the university’s fine arts complex. A new soccer and track facility opened in 2011, part of a decade-long expansion of new athletics facilities that included a tennis center, a basketball arena, a football field house and a softball stadium.[35] For the 2016–17 academic year, the economic and fiscal impacts of the university on Alabama were $424.8 million, 2,424 jobs, $16.1 million in state income and sales taxes, and $6 million in local sales tax.[36] In 2013, the university established a new College of Health Sciences, including Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy, the School of Health Professions and the School of Public Health.[37] The dean of the nursing school, Nena Sanders, was named vice-provost of the new college, and after her retirement in 2020 the nursing school was renamed the Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing.[38] In 2013, the university announced the construction of a new facility to house Brock School of Business. In 2014, the West Village residence complex opened. That December, the university purchased the adjacent headquarters of Southern Progress, a subsidiary of Time, Inc., that houses the College of Health Sciences.[39][40]

The university's long financial connection with the Alabama Baptist State Convention was ended by the university in July 2017 when the trustees announced they would no longer accept funds from the convention.[41] Later that year Samford and the state convention agreed that Samford would no longer present its slate of trustees to the convention for affirmation and that convention officers would no longer have an ex officio position on the board. This ended key aspects of Samford's formal connection to the state convention that had existed for decades. Yet, but the trustees’ own rule, all trustees must be members of Baptist churches and 75% from Alabama.[25] Samford is a collaborative partner of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.[42] In August 2020, Westmoreland announced he would retire on June 30, 2021.[43] On March 10, 2021, it was announced that he will be succeeded by Whitworth University president Beck A. Taylor.[44] Taylor took office on July 1, 2021.


Academic rankings
Forbes[45] 169
THE/WSJ[46] 170
U.S. News & World Report[47] 143

Samford, a Christian university,[48] offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with 170 undergraduate majors, minors and concentrations.[7] The university is divided into the School of the Arts, Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Brock School of Business, Beeson Divinity School, Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education, Cumberland School of Law, Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy, School of Health Professions, and School of Public Health. The faculty-to-student ratio at Samford University is 1:13.[49] Approximately two-thirds of the university's classes have fewer than 20 students.[7][49]


Samford's campus has moved three times during its history. Originally, Howard College was located in Marion, Alabama, a black-belt town between Selma and Tuscaloosa; it was the birthplace of Coretta Scott King. The college moved twice in the town. Its second campus is now the home of Marion Military Institute. In 1887, the college moved to the East Lake community in Birmingham. The university is now located approximately 5 miles (8 km) south of downtown Birmingham in Homewood, Alabama's Shades Valley along Lakeshore Drive in Homewood, just 2 miles (3 km) from Interstate 65. It is built in the Georgian Colonial style based on Colonial Williamsburg as envisioned by Lena Vail Davis, beloved wife of then President Harwell Davis when the campus was moved to the Shades Valley area of Jefferson County in 1953-57. {} The campus was designed by the Birmingham architectural firm Van Keuren & Davis, and most later buildings have also been designed by the same firm, known as Davis Architects since 1986.[50]

Student demographicsEdit

In 2020, Samford University enrolled 3,576 undergraduate and 2,153 graduate and professional students.[2] Students from 47 states and 30 countries attend Samford,[7] with 66 percent of the undergraduate student body coming from outside the state of Alabama.[51] 97 percent of all May 2019 undergraduate alumni were employed or enrolled in graduate school or in internships within six months of graduation.[52][53] 81 percent of May 2015 graduates completed an internship during their time at Samford.[54] During 2015, Samford students completed 716,902 hours of community service.[7]


The university fields 17 varsity sports and participates in the NCAA at the Division I level as a member of the Southern Conference.[51] Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis and indoor and outdoor track and field. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball.

In the NCAA's 2013 report, Samford student-athletes achieved an average Academic Progress Rate of 990, the highest in Alabama.[55] It marked the eighth consecutive year that Samford has been a leader in APR measures, beginning in 2005 when it placed 7th in the nation in the inaugural ranking.[55] The university is one of only 61 schools to have received an NCAA Public Recognition Award for academic excellence in the past eight years.[56]

In 2019, Samford's athletics teams were ranked first in Alabama and the Southern Conference and 18th in the country among all NCAA Division 1 schools for Graduation Success Rate by the NCAA with an average score of 97%. Nine teams posted perfect scores.[57] Samford is first among Division I schools in Alabama and in the Southern Conference.

The Bulldogs have won 48 conference championships since joining the Southern Conference in 2008.[56] In the last 20 years, 28 Samford baseball players have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, and 19 Bulldog football players have been chosen in the National Football League Draft.[56] Past student-athletes include national-championship football coaches Bobby Bowden[58] and Jimbo Fisher[59] All-Pro defensive back Cortland Finnegan,[60] NFL standouts include James Bradberry (Carolina Panthers), Michael Pierce (Baltimore Ravens) and Jaquiski Tartt (San Francisco 49ers), and baseball’s Phillip Ervin, who has had success with the Cincinnati Reds.

Notable alumniEdit

The university has more than 52,000 alumni, including U.S. congressmen, seven state governors, two U.S. Supreme Court justices, four Rhodes Scholars, multiple Emmy and Grammy award-winning artists, two national championship football coaches, and recipients of the Pulitzer and Nobel Peace prizes.[61] Some notable alumni include:

Politics and governmentEdit

Arts and lettersEdit





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External linksEdit