Published on July 8, 2020  

Earlier today, the university announced the membership of the new Task Force on Racial Justice, which was formed in June and charged with advancing racial justice at Samford. With the support of the Office of the Provost and the Vice President for Student Affairs, Phil Kimrey, the group is co-chaired by Samford Assistant Provost for Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives Denise Gregory and Samford Board of Trustees Vice Chair Robert Holmes. A list of task force members can be found here.

“Samford’s commitment to this effort is underscored by the fact that Robert Holmes is one of four trustees and other highly-qualified members who have answered the call to address President Westmoreland’s charge,” Gregory said. “The membership of this group reflects the diverse perspectives of Samford faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni.”

Gregory said the president’s charge to the task force to assist the university in “fostering positive, enduring changes in campus culture and existing systems” is rooted in the university’s mission, vision and core values.

“As a Christian university, Samford’s mission includes ‘social and civic responsibility and service to others,’” she said. “Throughout the history of the university, our community has missed opportunities to recognize and uplift marginalized individuals. It is each of our responsibility to show the love of Christ to all and we intend to create systems and processes that do just that. Together, each of us has a responsibility to create and sustain an equitable and genuinely welcoming environment for everyone.”

Holmes said he accepted the call to serve as co-chair to advance those Mission-Vision-Core Values. “I am serving on the task force because I am honored to be asked,” he said. “I am convinced that Samford’s best service to God, family and community lie in the future, on the other side of the challenges we face now. I have the title as co-chair, but I serve as a member of the Task Force to advance the Mission of Samford University.” 

Holmes, an engineer, executive/mentor and longtime Birmingham civic leader, became Alabama Power’s first Black corporate vice president in 1991, when he was tapped to head the statewide utility’s human resources department. He retired as Alabama Power’s senior vice president of ethics and corporate concerns.

While the task force’s mandate includes policy concerns (training and education, hiring processes and compensation, curriculum development and delivery, promotion and tenure, vendor contracts and the recruitment of diverse students, faculty and staff), the group will also be exploring ways to better support “the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of our students and employees of color.” 

“I look forward to receiving recommendations from this highly-qualified group of dedicated individuals about how Academic Affairs can further support the exemplary work of Dr. Denise Gregory as she leads our Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives,” said Samford Provost J. Michael Hardin. Hardin notes that Gregory’s June report outlined more than 45 impressive pre-COVID-19 initiatives to further student recruitment/support, student development, campus programming, diversity training, faculty development and support, and community events/programming. 

Gregory said that while Samford’s Task Force on Racial Justice plays a key role in the multi-faceted racial justice plan detailed in Samford’s June 24 news release, the university remains open to ongoing input.

“We are eager to hear from everyone regarding their questions, concerns and ideas,” Gregory said. “There will be opportunities for everyone to contribute to these efforts throughout the academic year and receive news and updates as we move forward. We are thankful for the many faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni and community members who have already responded on our website. We value that feedback, and encourage the community to continue to share their experiences with us. As we unite together toward a common goal of leading with love and moving our university forward, please continue to keep the Samford community uplifted in prayer.”

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.