Published on February 20, 2024 by Scarlet Thompson  
jonathan bass with new book

New information about Samford University’s beginnings is revealed in the new book From Every Stormy Wind That Blows: The Idea of Howard College and the Origins of Samford University, which debuted on Feb. 21. The publication, by university historian S. Jonathan Bass, looks at the founding and development of Howard College, which in 1965 changed its name to Samford. Samford President Emeritus Andrew Westmoreland commissioned Bass to write the scholarly history book.

“I jumped at the opportunity to explore the idea of Howard College and to answer key questions about the institution’s identity and mission,” said Bass. “In exploring Howard’s original intent, I discovered that the founders imagined a Christian college anchored in faith, intellect, virtue and benevolence—with a clear educational philosophy/goal of creating useful and enlightened Christian citizens.”

bass bookIt took seven years to research and write the book, which yielded new information about everything from Howard College’s early challenges to how it was named.

“One of the most surprising revelations from the research was the naming of Howard College after a British reformer, John Howard, who died a half century before the institution was founded. Reverend James DeVotie suggested naming the new institution after the type of person he and other founders hoped these young men would become. Throughout the early 19th century, Howard was still remembered worldwide.  John Howard’s virtues were the four founding principles of what would become Howard College. While Howard has been known as a prison reformer, Howard College was named for him not because of what he did, but for who he was -- a useful and enlightened Christian citizen who had a passion for serving others and doing what Christ had called him to do. The founders wanted an educational institution that would educate the whole person, to become that sort of enlightened Christian citizen,” Bass continued.

The book has received high praise, including a review from Mark Noll, one of the most notable historians of Christianity in the United States, and author of America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911.

“Jonathan Bass’s history is a goldmine for anyone associated with Samford, but also for those who are concerned about southern intellectual history, the history of Alabama and its many Baptists, or the fate of Christian liberal arts education in Alabama,” wrote Noll.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, Samford’s Office of the Provost will host a book signing and reception for Bass at 3 p.m. in the Regions Room at Cooney Hall. The Samford community is invited to attend. Anyone interested in purchasing the book directly can go through the LSU Press website. A discount code LSUSAVE40 has been created that will give buyers 40% off the cost.

In the meantime, Bass is already conceptualizing a second book, but it won’t exactly be part two of From Every Stormy Wind That Blows. Instead, it will be a separate stand-alone publication that explores Samford’s history in the context of the modern Sun Belt South, American and southern religious history, and theological/identity crises in the twentieth century.  While working on it, Bass will continue his efforts in the classroom.

“God’s vocational calling in my life is to teach and serve students. That always comes first. Those of us engaged in a high-level of research makes us better classroom teachers, because we are demonstrating what we are expecting of our students:  read thoroughly, think critically, and communicate clearly,” said Bass. “Researching and teaching are inseparable.  I love bringing new ideas, interpretations, and facts into the classroom for discussions with the students.”

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.