Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2005-09-01

Samford University president Thomas E. Corts reflected on his own life's journey and advised students to "seize the day" during the opening convocation of the 2005-06 academic year Tuesday (AUG. 30).

"I hope you see that your life begins not after college, but that it has already begun," said Dr. Corts, warning the students that life will come at them "in fits and starts."

"It is in the nature of the human condition that we both anticipate and remember," said Dr. Corts. "But in the here and now, in the present, we act. The sum of those actions makes up our lives."

He also urged the students to resolve their relationship to the Almighty, which is "the single most important part" of their college experience."

The convocation included the presentation of the Buchanan Award to music professor Dr. Donald Sanders. The annual award recognizes a top faculty member who excels in the art of classroom teaching.

Corts, who begins his 23rd year as president of Samford and plans to retire at the end of the academic year, shared a bit of his personal history.

Raised in a home that was deeply religious, he made his public profession of faith at age 12, although the core decision had been made earlier. When, as a high school sophomore, he was nominated and elected by acclamation to be president of an after-school Bible study, he realized a pivotal moment. In quiet contemplation in his family home, he said, "I decided that day to live a more Christian lifestyle."

"This was not a decision made after three choruses of 'Kumbaya,' but after silent, reasonable thinking," recalled Corts. In college, he would consider the idea of pastoring a church, which his preacher father had wanted for all of his six sons, but would be swayed by the influence of the school's president.

As a student at Georgetown College in Kentucky, Corts traveled to speaking engagements with the administrator, and after graduation worked a year with him at the school. By the end of the year, he had claimed a personal goal to serve in Christian higher education.

The road he chose led first to graduate school, then to the presidency of a small college in North Carolina, and to Samford in 1983.

"I can look backward and see more clearly what I could only anticipate before. We know how life begins, but are kept in the dark about how it shall end," said Corts.

The convocation also featured the formal installation of the Student Government Association executive officers who were elected by the student body last spring. They are: Matt Harrison of Huntsville, Ala., president; Austin Bourgeois of Brentwood, Tenn., vice president-senate; Melissa Poole of Hoover, Ala., vice president-activities; and Taylor Clement of Cleveland, Tenn., treasurer.

Minister to the University James Barnette asked for a moment of silence to remember William Todd Stephens, a sophomore pre-medicine major who died of an illness during the summer.


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.