Beck Taylor celebrated his first anniversary as president of Samford University in Birmingham on July 1 and said Samford had exceeded his expectations.
“Samford is even better than I thought,” he said. Jennifer Davis Rash, president and editor of TAB Media, in a recent interview.
Sharing highlights from his first year back in the city, Taylor said he started from day one, and he and his wife, Julie, “tried to fit two or three years into that first year. !”
“We wake up more excited than ever about the future of Samford,” he said. “The more we learn about this place, the more we get to know the people of Samford – from our faculty, staff and students to our alumni and friends throughout the community – the more excited we are about the future of Samford.”
Build relationships first
Taylor spent much of his freshman year traveling around the region to build relationships – “listening to the stories of the people of Samford, listening to how people expressed their excitement about the university, and then starting to articulate my vision and my understanding of the future of this place.”
Noting the many roles his wife fills, Samford First Lady Taylor said, “She helps organize many events at our house and on campus. She is a cheerleader for our students, faculty and staff – she really takes that role seriously.
She is also the executive director of Samford’s Legacy League, a scholarship foundation that raises funds for the university’s most needy students and provides care and programs.
Taylor said some of his favorite memories from freshman year are of the special bonds he and Julie forged with students at Samford.
“Traveling with students, doing admissions events with students, going to basketball games with students, going to University of Florida when Samford played in Florida in the fall and cheered with our students. Everything that brings us closer to students.
In May, Samford received the largest single-donor gift ever to an Alabama institution of higher education – $100 million from Marvin Mann’s estate.
On June 1, Taylor and university officials announced a $65 million capital project to expand and renovate existing buildings to create a new state-of-the-art recreational and sports complex.
‘So much more to do’
“Even though things are going extremely well in almost every area, the university still has a lot to do,” Taylor acknowledged.
One of his highlights of his first year as president of Samford was preaching at several Baptist churches in Alabama and meeting with dozens of Baptist fellowship leaders and pastors throughout the state.
“The opportunity to express my deep appreciation and the university’s love for our Alabama Baptist roots and our desire to continue to see these partnerships flourish has certainly been a highlight of the year,” said he declared.
“One of the best things about this job is that every day is a little different, and I get to wear a slightly different hat as I represent Samford.”
Taylor returned to Samford after serving as chairman of Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, from 2010. He was previously Dean and Professor of Economics for Samford’s Brock School of Business (2005-2010) and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development for Baylor UniversityHankamer School of Business (1997–2005).
Taylor noted the challenges and pressures that come with higher education, including navigating the cultural and economic winds with wisdom and fidelity.
“I think Samford is uniquely positioned to respond effectively [these pressures],” he said.
When people ask how they can support the university, Taylor responds by asking for prayer.
“It is a community of prayer,” he noted. “We take prayer very seriously on this campus. Its people are bathed in the prayers of devotees around the world every day, and we covet those prayers.
Samford is “a place that intentionally brings together ideas and people who might fundamentally disagree with each other on important issues of the day,” Taylor noted.
“Faithful, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christians disagree on a whole host of issues and we shouldn’t be afraid of that disagreement,” he continued. “We should be grateful that God has placed us in a community that enables us to discern together what is wisdom, what is truth, and how to faithfully live out our callings as Christians.
“That doesn’t mean we’re losing our Christian moorings,” Taylor hastened to add. “That doesn’t mean we don’t take the Bible seriously. We take all of these things very seriously, but we want our students to hear what these opposing ideas are so that when they graduate they can be faithful, attractive Christians in the world.