Thomas E. Corts, 1983-2006
Born in Terre Haute, Ind., and reared in Ashtabula, Ohio, Samford's 18th president was one of seven siblings and the oldest brother to answer a calling other than full-time ministry. Although in his youth he was so involved in church activities that high school classmates jokingly called him "Reverend," Tom Corts did not dream of a career in the pulpit. In fact, he was more excited by the prospect of a career in journalism. Working for the local newspaper as a teenager, Corts reported on Friday night football games, mixing with players and coaches on the sidelines but never guessing that someday he would have ultimate responsibility of entire college athletic programs.
It was not until attending Georgetown College that Corts began to glimpse how he might combine his faith, his love for education and his family's tradition of service. With the guidance and interest of Georgetown President Robert L. Mills, Corts found an aptitude for and interest in the behind-the-scenes work of higher education. After graduating from Georgetown, Corts earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University and served as Executive Vice President at Georgetown College before becoming president of Wingate College in 1974.
After becoming President of Samford University in 1983, Corts led the most dramatic period of growth in the university’s history. Samford now ranks among the South’s top five regional universities, regularly posts record enrollments, offers extensive international study experience and enjoys a growing reputation for innovative teaching and undergraduate research. Corts also led many major building projects and nurtured an endowment of over $200m.
In addition to his Presidency of Samford, Corts served as chairman of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), President of SACS, President of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities and President of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform.