Published on May 2, 2024 by Neal Embry  

After finishing graduate school, Jonathan Bass moved back to the Birmingham area, thinking he would be here for a year and then move on.  

That was 26 years ago. 

“God opened the door to be (at Samford) and this is where I wanted to be,” Bass said. 

Jonathan Bass is a history professor in Samford University’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences, and his wife, Jennifer, taught Samford’s Foundations 101 class a few times. Their children have all come to Samford: Kathleen, Caroline and Nathaniel. The girls have both graduated from Samford, while Nate just finished his second year. Kathleen is a 2024 graduate of Beeson Divinity School and Caroline just finished her first year at Beeson. 

Watching her children grow up on campus and now seeing them enjoy it as students has been a joy, Jennifer said. 

“When the kids were little, we’d take them up to campus a lot, and they loved running on the quad,” she said. “As fun as that was, I have enjoyed watching each of them make friends, thrive in various aspects of Samford and grow in their faith on the campus we all love.” 

Teaching and mentoring students has been the call on Jonathan’s life, as he treasures playing a small part in the lives of those he teaches.  

“I’ve tried to pour my life into theirs, but I’ve also received a lot, I’ve learned a lot from my students and I’m a better person because of the relationships I’ve had with those students,” Jonathan said. 

Samford’s commitment to Christ has kept him and his family here over the years, he said. 

“Parents and students have entrusted us with that legacy, and that is an awesome responsibility,” Jonathan said. “I come to work every day thinking, ‘How can I further the kingdom of God and how can I serve my students better?’” 

And while he’s taught two of his children, he said none of them were ever pushed to come to Samford. 

“They grew up here,” Jonathan said. “They explored other options … but came to see (Samford) as the best fit. It’s been a true blessing.” 

Having his children on campus has been a “true blessing,” he said, and has helped deepen his relationship with each of them post high school. 

Kathleen, who graduated in 2021 with a degree in Christian ministry, said it was special to get “extra time” with her dad, and later with Caroline, who started in fall 2019. 

“It’s a big part of all of our lives,” Kathleen said. 

For the last 10 years, the family has, in a way, lived Samford’s history as Jonathan wrote his recently published book, From Every Stormy Wind That Blows: The Idea of Howard College and the Origins of Samford University

“When your dad’s a historian, you spend a lot of time in libraries and archives and cemeteries,” Kathleen said. 

Kathleen was part of the first class of Christian ministry majors at Samford when the program began in 2018 and said the one-on-one mentorship with professors was special. 

Caroline, who graduated with a degree in history and geography in 2023, said she craved Christian community coming out of high school. While she didn’t plan on coming to Beeson, Kathleen encouraged her to pursue it, and the Lord used her sister’s influence to bring her to the school. Kathleen said spending this past year with her sister at Beeson has been memorable, as she’s seen her thrive “in a very different way than I have.” 

“To watch her be here, to introduce her to friends and professors … I can’t ever encapsulate that,” Kathleen said. 

Caroline’s experience as an undergraduate student was difficult at times. Shortly after she began her studies, the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes online, which followed the death of her grandmother during her first week of classes. These last few years at Samford have been “really redemptive,” she said. 

“The Lord has been so kind and merciful, showing me how to rely on Him and look to Him as my friend first,” Caroline said. “He provided me with so much Christian community here at Beeson.” 

Jonathan said Beeson has been a tremendous source of encouragement for him as well. 

“My faith has strengthened tremendously because of the words and deeds of Beeson faculty and staff,” he said. 

Nate said he doesn’t remember a time not being around Samford. 

“This is the world I’ve grown up in,” he said. “It’s been kind of fun to grow up at Samford in some ways and to also see the campus grow as I’ve gotten older.” 

It’s been strange stepping into being a college student after growing up around them, seeing them as “big kids,” Nate said.  

Jonathan and Jennifer instilled a foundation of faith that Nate said he’s been able to make his own now, as he pursues a degree in history while minoring in Christian ministry.  

“It’s really unique to have my dad and my sisters on campus,” Nate said. 

The Lord has also made His presence felt to Nate here, he said. 

“I remember peering up and looking at the bell tower and sensing this promise from the Lord, that if I remained faithful in my time here, He’d grow me into the person He made me to be,” Nate said. 

At home, the discussion of Samford continues. 

“We all turn to each other when we’re facing a problem or excited about something,” Caroline said. “Kathleen preached for a women-led worship service and sent (her sermon) to Nate. … Our mom’s a big part of the story. We couldn’t make it without her.” 

It’s amazing to see the depth of the theological conversations his children have after classes, Jonathan said. 

Taking history classes with his dad is “just a dinner time conversation,” Nate said. 

“This is what we talked about,” Nate said. “We learned history lessons. We talked about Jesus. We talked about Samford. I’ve admired the way my dad has fought for this university to continue to be a place that grows wise, passionate believers.” 

Jonathan said to watch his children grow and develop into who they are today is “one of the great blessings of my life.” 

“It’s amazing to me as a parent to be able to watch God put the puzzle pieces together in their lives,” he said. “My wife and I both stand in awe of Christ’s grace and how He developed each of their lives.” 

Caroline said she may eventually pursue a PhD and teach church history, and desires to work in the field of Jewish-Christian relations. 

Kathleen said she feels called to special needs ministry and would love to work with children. 

As he continues his Samford career, Nate said it’s more likely than not he will end up at Beeson. 

“I’ll go into some sort of ministry, and I want to be equipped to do that,” Nate said. “From the experience of Kathleen and Caroline, they are most certainly equipped to have the wisdom they need to go and be successful. Beeson is super appealing to me right now. I hope it’s the right next step.” 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.