On March 10, Samford University announced the election of Beck Taylor to serve as the 19th university president. During the day, Taylor, his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Chloe, attended a celebration on the quad where he met with students, faculty and staff. During the day, Taylor also toured campus for the first time in 11 years.
“We’re running on a little bit of adrenaline,” Taylor said during an interview with The Samford Crimson. “Julie and I joked this morning as we rolled out of bed that we need to go back to Spokane to get a little rest.”
Taylor is a graduate at Baylor University, where he received his undergraduate degree and then went on to earn his M.S. and Ph.D. at Purdue University. Before becoming the 18th Whitworth University President in Spokane, Washington 11 years ago, Taylor was the Dean of the Brock School of Business at Samford from 2005 to 2010.
“I was probably a little young at the time to be a dean, but Samford took a risk on me and I’ve always appreciated that,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he had a wonderful five years at Samford where he grew personally and professionally. He said that something that has applied most to his future role as president of Samford is the faculty’s commitment to higher education and their students, as well as the students themselves.
“I fell in love with the Samford community then and its people, and I think that brings me back to the thing I’m most excited about in my future role as president here,” Taylor said.
When current Samford University President Andrew Westmoreland first announced his retirement, Taylor said he received a lot of emails and messages encouraging him and nominating him for this position. After months of praying about it and contemplating whether this was their calling, both Taylor and his wife Julie decided to submit themselves to the search process.
“It was a months-long deliberate, prayerful process with the Presidential Search Committee here at Samford with many conversations — hours of conversations — both on Zoom as well as in-person.” Taylor said. “It ultimately arrived at a mutual decision between myself and the Presidential Search Committee that this would be a good fit and that I would hopefully be a good leader for Samford in the future.”
The Taylor and Westmoreland families have been close for years, keeping in touch for the past 11 years and getting together up to three times a year. Taylor knew of Westmoreland as the president of his parent’s alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University. Taylor was also able to work with him during his time as the Brock School of Business Dean.
“He was an incredible mentor, confidant and adviser to me here at Samford,” Taylor said. “I modeled so much of my own leadership and inspiration after him.”
Taylor said the legacy of the Westmorelands will continue to be an inspiration.
“I’m really looking forward to stewarding, nurturing and elevating the legacies of Drs. Andy and Jeanna Westmoreland on the Samford campus as I become president,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he finds inspiration as a leader in how the Samford community serves their community through non-profit organizations, ministry and campus organizations. This call to service is what Taylor said he believes also sets Samford people apart.
“I love that Samford people see themselves as something bigger than themselves,” Taylor said.
When it comes to his faith and leadership values, Taylor said he believes one of his virtues in his leadership is humility and being humble.
“In a learning community we ought to be humble enough to recognize that we don’t have a monopoly of truth, that we have so much to learn from people who have different experiences and perspectives, that we want to engage the world in new ways, and I think that requires some humility,” Taylor said.
He also said he believes integrity is another virtue in leadership.
“We want to be people full of integrity as we approach new ideas and perspectives as our assumptions about the world are questioned,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he plans to be an encouraging and optimistic president.
“I think one of the most important aspects of the presidency is to always find creative ways to remind our community here at Samford about who we are, what our values and priorities are and the importance of every single member of the Samford community contributing to the health and welfare of the institution,” Taylor said.
Taylor said students are the center of the university and that they will continue to be the center of his love, service and dedication to Samford. He also said that students will find him as a presence on campus, whether it be at the Caf, attending performing arts and athletic events or being at various convocation and speaker events.
“I love being on a college campus because I love being near students,” Taylor said.
He also spoke about his family and their excitement for this move to Birmingham and his new position.
“We all love university life,” Taylor said.
Taylor expressed his excitement about his wife and partner, Julie, becoming the First Lady of Samford University.
“She will be an incredible servant of Samford University,” Taylor said.
He will also be bringing their youngest daughter, Chloe, with them to Birmingham, where she will be attending high school. Their son, Zach, is a Belmont University graduate and a singer, songwriter and recording artist in Nashville, Tennessee. Their other daughter, Lauren, graduated from Whitworth last spring and plans to start medical school next year at the University of Washington. All are excited for their mom, dad and little sister’s move to Birmingham.
What Taylor said he is most looking forward to next year as president of Samford is the return to some semblance of normalcy, as Samford plans to return to normal operation and instruction this fall.
“We’re not made as humans to live in isolation,” Taylor said. “We’re made to be in community.”
Taylor plans to re-engage in the Samford community, to learn about the university and catch up on all the progress that has been made since he left 11 years ago. He plans to be active on campus, but also mentioned travelling the world to introduce himself to Samford alumni and friends.
Overall, Taylor said he is optimistic about Samford University and his new role as university president.
“I’m absolutely convinced that Samford’s best days are ahead,” Taylor said.