Beck Taylor has been named the 19th president of Samford University and will succeed Andrew Westmoreland, who is retiring after 15 years at the helm.
Samford trustees elected Taylor March 10 upon the recommendation of a 23-member presidential search committee after a six-month national search.
Taylor is no stranger to the Baptist-affiliated school in Birmingham, Ala., having previously served as dean of Samford’s Brock School of Business from 2005 to 2010. He will return to Samford from Spokane, Wash., where he currently leads Whitworth University, a role he has held since 2010.
Taylor, 51, “brings an exceptional record of academic leadership, demonstrated success in fundraising, and a personal commitment to Samford,” said William Stevens, chair of the Samford board of trustees. “We unanimously and confidently agree that President-elect Taylor possesses the experience, strategic vision and alignment with our values to continue building Samford’s reputation as a leading Christian university.”
“Samford is a crown jewel in Christian higher education, and it is committed to pursuing excellence at the intersection of faith and learning,” Taylor said. “My wife, Julie, and I already love this place and its people, and we look forward to the journey ahead.”
At Whitworth, Taylor has focused on community involvement; efforts to enhance academic programs and quality; the building of new campus infrastructure to facilitate the university’s academic, athletic and student life programs; creation of newly endowed faculty positions and centers; leading Whitworth’s largest-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign; and an emphasis on overall institutional effectiveness.
Previously at Samford, he led a transformation of the business school, including its renaming to honor Harry Brock Jr., founder of Compass Bank. Taylor led the Brock School of Business to establish eight new academic programs, as well as the school’s new honors program.
Westmoreland, meanwhile, over the last 15 years has led Samford through notable growth and adaption, navigating a few public challenges such as debate over LGBTQ inclusion and the relationship of the school to its historic ties with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. As with most private, faith-based schools, fundraising and finances have been ever-present on the agenda.
Under Westmoreland’s leadership, Samford’s enrollment has increased by almost 30% and the university has recorded 11 consecutive years of enrollment growth. More than 30 new or enhanced academic programs were added at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including many in the College of Health Sciences that was established in 2013. The university has raised more than $400 million in philanthropic gifts and has invested approximately $100 million in its physical plant and campus.
Samford currently enrolls 5,729 students from 47 states and 30 countries in its 10 academic schools. The university fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the Southern Conference and ranks first nationally for its graduation success rate among all NCAA Division I schools.
Samford currently ranks as the third-largest traditional Baptist-affiliated university in the nation, based on student enrollment, falling behind only Baylor University and Mercer University.
A native of Houston, Taylor earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor with majors in economics and finance, then was employed as an analyst for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in Houston. He went on to earn a master of science degree and Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University.
Samford currently ranks as the third-largest traditional Baptist-affiliated university in the nation.
Then he returned to Baylor as associate dean for research and faculty development in the Hankamer School of Business. In 2002, he was appointed as a visiting scholar by Harvard University, where he spent one year in residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education while on leave from Baylor.
The Alabama Baptist reported that Taylor and his wife, Julie, are lifelong Baptists except for their time at Whitworth, which is a Presbyterian school. They plan to rejoin Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood, Ala., where they were members while previously at Samford.
Taylor was raised at Second Baptist Church in Houston and was active at First Baptist Church of Woodway, Texas, while at Baylor. All three churches are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.