Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-05-01

The newly established Jean and Pat Sullivan Scholarship Fund at Samford University boasts an impressive $70,000 thanks to the efforts of the Samford Auxiliary and the generosity of an anonymous benefactor.

The Samford head football coach and his wife were the honorees at the Auxiliary's inaugural scholarship dinner Thursday, April 30.

An initial $35,000 raised by the Auxiliary is being matched by an anonymous donor, who on Thursday upped his original pledge of $25,000 by $10,000 to evenly match the group's fund-raising efforts.

"So now, the Jean and Pat Sullivan Scholarship Fund has $70,000," announced Samford president Andrew Westmoreland, noting that scholarships supported by the fund will impact many students, just as the Sullivans have impacted many lives.

"Pat and Jean have touched all of our lives, and many lives have been changed because of them. Years from now, students will be benefitting from this scholarship," he said.

The unnamed donor, said Westmoreland, made his commitment because of a deep appreciation for the Sullivans, and in memory of his mother, "who taught him the significance of a generous spirit."

Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner while a star quarterback at Auburn University, was named Samford head football coach in 2006.

Since that time, he and his wife, Jean, have endeared themselves to the Samford community, a fact affirmed by speakers at the banquet.

Bulldog senior football player Mitch Waters told how during his first spring football practice under Sullivan, he noticed Jean Sullivan sitting in the stands with a player roster.

"She was learning us, making us her family. We were as much her boys as we were coach Sullivan's," said Waters, adding that "integrity" is the key word that sums up his head coach.

The sentiment was echoed by Chris Brasfield, a Samford football staff member and Beeson Divinity School student who played at Texas Christian University when Sullivan coached at the Fort Worth school.

"Wherever they are, they care about the people they come in contact with," said Brasfield, who recalled that Jean Sullivan helped him prepare his first resume. "And coach hasn't changed. He will always be a better man than he ever was a football player."

Sullivan responded that he feels like the "luckiest coach" in America.

"I get to do what I like, which is coach in my hometown, around my kids, parents, family and close friends. There's no way Jean and I can express gratitude for what you've done," he told Auxiliary members and guests at the dinner at Vestavia Country Club.

At the end of the night, the Auxiliary added $3,000 to their scholarship efforts with the auction of a retired #7 Auburn presentation jersey and a Samford coaches jacket, both signed by Sullivan, who wore the number seven as an Auburn Tiger.

During the live auction led by emcee Tommy Yearout, Wally Nall won the jersey and Michael Clay won the jacket.

Yearout, a Birmingham attorney and former Auburn teammate of Sullivan's, shared emcee duties with Samford graduate and WIAT TV sports director Brad Radice.

The program also included introduction of nine of this year's 27 Auxiliary scholarship recipients, who share awards totaling $65,000. Senior nursing major Lindsay Harter spoke on behalf of all recipients when she told of the difference her scholarship made in her college career and in her efforts to pursue a possible future in medical missions.

Alta Faye Fenton is Auxiliary president, and Penny Kimrey is scholarship committee chair. Dr. Jeanna Westmoreland is executive director of the 850-member Auxiliary.

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.