Samford University made significant progress in enhancing its learning environment during a year of tightened budgets in 2009, President Andrew Westmoreland told faculty and staff at the start of the 2009-2010 academic year Monday, Aug. 17.
Dr. Westmoreland identified the development as one of Samford's new and emerging strengths during his annual Commentary on the State of the University. "I am stunned and encouraged by the fact that you have made such progress in enhancing the learning environment with not enough money," he told an audience of about 500 in Wright Center.
Faculty returned to campus Monday for a week of preliminary meetings leading up to the start of Samford's 168th academic year Monday, Aug. 24.
Westmoreland also identified as new and emerging strengths Samford's improved efforts to promote gifts, its increased transparency in dealing with financial issues and its stronger framework for recruiting and retaining students.
Samford enjoyed its best fundraising year in history with $23.1 million in gifts, according to Randy Pittman, vice president for university advancement. That figure represented a 13 percent increase over the previous year and a 42 percent increase over the average for the previous five years.
"We are very grateful to our donors," Pittman said.
In other good news, Westmoreland said Samford's enrollment for the fall semester was trending 145 students ahead of the same date last year. Included in this year's class are 738 undergraduate freshmen who will arrive Thursday, Aug. 20. Samford enrolled 4,469 students last fall.
Westmoreland told the faculty it has an emerging opportunity to "focus as never before on our passion: teaching, learning and scholarship." He said he had confidence in Samford's future because "we share a sense of calling" and, "I am inspired by you, our students and hundreds of friends."
Westmoreland said Samford should be prepared to help Birmingham and Jefferson County in times of economic difficulty.
"We ought to be as involved as we can be to solve local problems," he said. "We need to be engaged. We must find ways to help our leaders."
Harry B. Brock III, vice president for business affairs, provided a financial update that included projected figures for a five-year financial roadmap. He noted that Samford was instituting a plan to make fiscal information more readily available.
Earlier Monday, about 500 employees gathered in Samford's Reid Chapel for a worship service that featured prayers for each incoming student and employee by name.