Published on May 13, 2020 by Sean Flynt  

English and law professor Mark Baggett’s diverse interests led him to complement his undergraduate study of communications with advanced degrees in English, law and American Literature. He was a practicing attorney and college development officer before joining Samford’s faculty in 1987. His continued practice of law and his interest in the literal landscape of literature have brought special value into his classrooms in two Samford divisions, and his students know it. He thought they were pretty special, too. “The Samford culture tends to nurture students who are respectful, polite, smart, serious, dedicated, and loyal to their professors,” he observed.

Baggett found it especially rewarding to work with Cumberland School of Law students because he got to watch them grow into their profession over a long period of time. But he also fondly recalls his undergraduate students in London in the fall of 1990, who dubbed themselves the “Mental Gyants.” His literary tours with students and alumni–around the south as well as in England, New England and Ireland­–provided other memorable experiences. “Visiting Flannery O'Connor's house in Savannah, or reading Wordsworth in Tintern Abbey, or walking the path to see Thoreau's cabin site at Walden­–these are hard to beat,” he said.

More than three decades of service have given Baggett a deep appreciation for the university’s culture and the people who remain engaged with it long after they graduate. “I'm a big believer in generations of Samford students passing on the traditions,” he said. No wonder, then, that he literally struck up the band to welcome returning alumni. “Honestly,” he said, “what other school would let [biology professor] Larry Davenport and me play rock and roll at homecoming?”

In retirement, Baggett will continue his research and writing on Mark Twain and law, but he will focus on his grandchildren first. The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed his plan to hop in a rented VW van and relive the sixties on Route 66 (“…Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona…”) while reciting Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road. “It will have to wait,” he said, “but I won't forget Winona.”

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.