By Emily Williams
Samford University President Andrew Westmoreland, who has led the institution since 2006, will retire from the presidency effective June 30.
According to an email Westmoreland sent to students, employees and alumni on Aug. 28, he announced his decision to the board of trustees during its Aug. 27 meeting.
“Including our 15 years at Samford, Jeanna and I will have served more than 23 years in presidencies at two universities,” Westmoreland said. “Our careers in higher education now span more than four decades. We have been blessed with opportunities far beyond our dreams and we believe that this is the appropriate time to open the door for new leaders at Samford.”
Westmoreland’s relationship with Samford University began on his first day of class as a college freshman, on Aug. 28, 1975.
“As a first-generation college student, I was confused and anxious – and with no idea that, as my career unfolded, I would remain within the mysterious world of higher education for a lifetime.”
Before returning to Samford as president, he served as president of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, for eight years.
During his tenure, Samford officials noted that university enrollment has experienced 11 consecutive years of growth in enrollment – which has, in total, increased by nearly 30% since 2006.
In addition, more than 30 new or enhanced academic programs, both graduate and undergraduate, have been introduced. More than $400 million has been raised in philanthropic gifts, and the university has invested an estimated $100 million in its physical plant and campus.
The university also has garnered national acclaim, including being ranked third in the nation and first in Alabama for student engagement in 2019 by the Wall Street Journal.
“As we begin this transition in the university’s leadership, it is important to remember Samford is stronger today than at any time in its 179-year history,” Samford Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Stevens said in a released statement. “We all are immensely grateful for the tremendous service of President Westmoreland.”
According to Westmoreland, his decision was shaped by two important memories: his father’s unexpected death at 66, and the death of his Samford predecessor Tom Corts at 67. He added that he is 63 and in good health.
“As we know, every day is a gift; we take nothing for granted,” he said. “With whatever time that remains to me, I want the days to be filled with long hours for family and friends, productive labor, and – especially – support for Samford.”
Westmoreland said he plans to spend the fall of 2021 away from the university and then will return to serve as executive director of the Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
“In addition, I want to read and write and consult and travel – and have an enormous amount of pure fun,” he said.
Until then, he stated, “mountains of work must be accomplished this fall and next spring” and he will be fully engaged in his position until June 30, “or a few days longer if the new president can’t be in place by that time.”
A search for Samford’s next president begins immediately, according to university officials. A search committee will be co-chaired by trustees Tim Vines, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama, and Beth Thorne Stukes, a corporate and civic leader from Jasper, with assistant to the president Michael Mordan serving as search committee secretary.