By Ginny Cooper
When Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford University since 2006, found out he had been named the 2013 March of Dimes Alabama Citizen of the Year, he said he was “rather stunned.”
And although he said that he was “clearly undeserving” of the award, those who know Westmoreland likely would disagree.
Since coming to Birmingham in 2006, Westmoreland has served as honorary chairman for the March of Dimes in 2008 and 2009.
He also was board chairman of the American Heart Association and served on the board of directors for M-Power Ministries, the advisory board of the Greater Birmingham Salvation Army and is a trustee for the Baptist Health System in Birmingham.
Westmoreland is active in the Birmingham Business Alliance and the Rotary Club of Birmingham and regularly volunteers with his wife, Jeanna, at their church, Shades Mountain Baptist.
In 2009, Westmoreland and his friend Dr. Shelley Stewart co-founded the Birmingham Kitchen Table, which hosts dinners and discussions designed “to bring people together to foster positive change,” Westmoreland said.
The mission of the organization aims to “create positive change by encouraging dialogue among diverse people,” he said.
The most rewarding aspect of all of this community involvement, Westmoreland said, is the human dimension.
“Although charities often use statistics to illustrate the magnitude of their work, the memorable pieces to me are always the impact on one life or one family. I suppose that I make sense of the world through stories,” he said.
Westmoreland is a graduate of Ouachita University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1979. He earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
He later became president of his alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., before moving to Birmingham in 2006 to become president of Samford University.
Westmoreland said he believes that community service is intrinsically linked to the mission of Samford.
“Our institutional commitment to service cannot be separated from our desire to follow the life and witness of Christ,” he said.
Westmoreland’s vision for the university in the coming years is centered on this philanthropic spirit, he said.
“I think that our shared vision at Samford is to offer an extraordinarily high-quality education at a reasonable price, preparing students with the breadth and depth to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world,” he said. “We have the audacity to say that the world is better because of Samford, and I see examples every day that the statement is true.”
State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, March of Dimes board member, said he is thrilled to acknowledge Westmoreland as Alabama Citizen of the Year.
“We truly feel that Dr. Westmoreland and the relationship the March of Dimes shares with Samford University is something to be honored,” Waggoner said. “We can think of no one more deserving to receive this distinguished award this year than our chosen recipient.”
Founded in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency that aims to improve the health of babies through research, community service, education and advocacy.
The March of Dimes has more than $1,000,000 invested in Alabama community programs and research projects focused on prenatal and child health.
The organization recognizes one person annually as the Alabama Citizen of the Year, with recipients ranging from Terry Kellogg, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, to James C. Lee, chairman and CEO of Buffalo Rock.
Westmoreland had a few suggestions for those looking to volunteer with the March of Dimes or with other organizations in their community.
“Getting involved is easy, but learning where to invest your time and what role to play is more difficult,” he said.
He said the first step is to “determine your own skills and interests.”
Westmoreland also stressed the need for volunteers.
“We live in a beautiful, broken world,” he said, “so opportunities are everywhere.”
To learn more about the March of Dimes, visit marchofdimes.com/Alabama. To learn about other local volunteer opportunities, visit the Alabama Association of Nonprofits at www.alabamanonprofits.org.