Samford University's board of trustees gave approval to candidates for graduation and several academic-related initiatives during their regular winter meeting Dec. 3 in Birmingham.

Trustees approved 262 candidates for graduation, pending completion of degree requirements. Board members were reminded that this is "the most important decision we make" before voting.

Trustees authorized university officials to develop plans for a new department of social work and a new master of social work degree in the School of Public Health. Final implementation would be subject to full review within regular governance procedures, according to Samford Provost and Executive Vice President J. Bradley Creed. The department and program are part of Samford's new College of Health Sciences being launched during 2013-14.

A new master of music degree in vocal performance was approved in the School of the Arts. The degree will prepare students for professional performance careers, Creed said.

The Richard J. Stockham Jr. Chair of Western Intellectual History was approved, and an endowment to support the chair was established. Named for the late Birmingham business executive in recognition of his unrestricted estate gift in memory of former Samford President and Mrs. Leslie S. Wright, the chair will support the university's core texts program. Stockham had a "great appreciation for the teaching of core texts in the Western intellectual tradition, with an emphasis on Judeo-Christian values," according to university officials.

An endowment also was established to support a new music scholarship. The scholarship is named for Samford alumna Bonnie Bolding of Birmingham in recognition of "her generous gifts to the university," according to university officials. The scholarship will support students in the Samford University Marching Band and other music ensembles. Bolding served as drum majorette of the band while a student.

In a series of financial reports, trustees heard from university officials that contributions and pledges to "A Campaign for Samford" now exceed $182.6 million toward the overall goal of $200 million. As of Oct. 31, net assets were $11.9 million greater than at the end of the previous fiscal year on June 30. As of Sept. 30, Samford's endowment was valued at $258 million.

Officers re-elected for another term were chair William J. Stevens, CEO, Motion Industries, Birmingham; Huntsville attorney Roderic G. Steakley, vice chair; Birmingham physician Lev H. Bragg, secretary; and Birmingham banker Vic E. Nichol Jr., assistant secretary.

Sheri McKean of Montgomery attended her first meeting as a new trustee.

Trustees Jay L. Wolf of Montgomery and Ronnie Watkins of Gadsden were recognized for completing their terms of service on the board.

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.