The Samford University community heartily applauded its approval of two faculty award honorees at the opening convocation of the spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Education professor Dr. Maurice Persall and business professor Dr. Jennings Marshall were each surprised when called to the stage to accept accolades for outstanding teaching and service.
Persall, chair of graduate studies and Ralph W. Beeson professor in Samford’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education, received the George Macon Memorial Award for his outstanding performance as a teacher, counselor, friend to students, and as one who inspires students to greatness.
Marshall, professor of economics, finance and quantitative analysis in the Brock School of Business, was named the inaugural recipient of the Jennings B. Marshall Service Award. The new award, established by the Samford faculty senate and named to honor its lead organizer, will recognize fulltime faculty members who have made significant and sustained service contributions to the University.
In presenting the Macon Award, Samford Provost Dr. Brad Creed noted that Persall, a specialist in educational and leadership theory, “causes his students to think about their personal leadership and their abilities in new ways.”
“He avoids the simplistic and urges his students to confront difficult issues in school administration and in leading education for students and a community. Much of his success comes not from his outstanding teaching but from who he is,” said Creed, noting that under Persall’s leadership the Samford graduate education program has grown from 32 to 230 students.
Persall’s students often speak of his encouragement and his belief in them, said Creed.
“Many who are excellent administrators today claim that he saw something in them that they did not see in themselves, and how much more confidence they have as a result of having him as a teacher,” said Creed. “He believes in students and their potential for greatness.”
Persall joined Samford in 1993 after serving as assistant state superintendent of education for Alabama and superintendent of Vestavia Hills and Arab city school systems. He holds a doctorate from Auburn University, a master’s from the University of Alabama and a bachelor’s degree from St. Bernard College in Cullman, Ala.
In announcing Marshall as the first recipient of his namesake award, faculty senate member Dr. Cynthia Lohrke cited teaching, research and service as the three basic components of any professor’s job.
While the latter is sometimes nebulous, most times thankless, and not as easily defined or rewarded as teaching or research, service is an important part of Samford’s mission, she said.
Since joining the Samford faculty in 1985, Marshall has chaired a department or university committee every year. He has chaired, multiple times, university-wide committees on athletics, faculty welfare, academic affairs and elections. After serving as president of the faculty in 1996-97, he played a key leadership role in creating the faculty senate and framing its constitution.
“Dr. Marshall has a commitment to the university as a whole,” Lohrke said of her business school colleague, whose out-of-classroom activities have included founding a noon faculty basketball group and driving his vintage car in Homecoming parades.
Prior to joining the Samford faculty, Marshall served on faculties at Tennessee Technological University and University of Kentucky. He holds Ph.D. and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree from Kentucky Southern College.
Creed noted his personal appreciation for his faculty colleagues’ commitment to service.
Service to an institution and its web of relationships is integral to being able to function as a university, and is essential to human flourishing, he said.
“Dr. Marshall represents this kind of service. He always has the best interest of Samford in mind,” said Creed.
Likewise, the Macon award underscores Persall’s great service to schools and administrators. “No one in the state has had more impact on school administrators in Alabama,” he said.
The price of greatness, Creed said, is nothing more than service. “It is hard to improve on the standard that was set by Jesus,” he said, adding that Jesus told his disciples that to become great, the first must become last.
To become great, Creed advised his audience of students and faculty, “You must get out of yourselves and get involved with people as Jesus did.”
“You will learn that it doesn’t take much to make a difference.”