Former Alabama Baptist and current West Coast university president Beck A. Taylor will be the next president of Samford University in Birmingham, beginning July 1.
He follows Andrew Westmoreland, who is set to retire from the presidency June 30 and become director of the university’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
The board of trustees unanimously elected the 51-year-old Taylor as the 19th president this morning (March 10) in a special-called board meeting, following a day of reference panel discussions with various stakeholder groups on campus March 9.
Taylor, president of Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, since 2010, served as dean of Samford’s Brock School of Business for five years prior to accepting the presidency at Whitworth, a faith-based university connected to the Presbyterian Church.
Taylor did his undergraduate work in economics and finance at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and his master’s and Ph.D. work in economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He returned to Baylor as an assistant professor, then professor, graduate program director and eventually associate dean for research and faculty development for the Hankamer School of Business. In 2002, he also was appointed as a visiting scholar by Harvard University where he spent one year in residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Beth Thorne Stukes, a member of the board of trustees and co-chair of the 23-member presidential search committee, said, “Our committee found Dr. Taylor to be an accomplished scholar, a recognized and experienced administrator and one who is committed to the mission of Christ-centered higher education.”
Taylor surfaced as the final candidate — and was presented as the unanimous choice of the committee — following a six-month process that began with more than 80 nominations of a diverse group of individuals from all regions of the United States, Stukes explained.
“Each nominee was contacted with an invitation to allow the committee to consider them as candidates for the position,” she said. “Around 40 letters of interest were received, and each nomination and application was carefully reviewed by all members of the search committee.”
Committee member Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, added, “I am thrilled with the selection of Beck Taylor. … Many of his outstanding characteristics were visibly evident in both our Zoom calls and face-to-face interviews. But what impressed me the most was how in his answers he integrated his Christian faith and walk (with specific biblical references) into every aspect of his work, decision making, interaction with students and personal life.
“At his present university he has successfully confronted cultural issues that have shaken some Christian institutions off their moorings,” Wood said. “He has led his university to stay biblically centered and Christ honoring. I am confident he will be an outstanding president for Samford University.”
Samford, Birmingham experience
Lifelong Baptists aside from their 11 years at Whitworth, Taylor and his wife, Julie, plan to rejoin Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood, where they were members while previously at Samford.
Taylor grew up as part of — and made his profession of faith and was baptized as a 13 year old at — Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas, and was active as a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church, Woodway, while in Waco.
Gary Fenton, retired pastor of Dawson, served as the Taylors’ pastor during that time.
“Beck, Julie and their then young family were faithful in attendance and active in the life of the congregation during their five years in Birmingham,” Fenton said. “Before Beck and Julie joined Dawson, we had a very meaningful conversation about spiritual issues and the mission engagement of the church. The questions they asked and the ensuing conversation with them revealed a rare spiritual depth.
“During their years at Dawson I observed a real and sincere walk with the Lord and a desire to see their children develop spiritually as well. At the same time I watched as Beck led the Brock School of Business to excel and to become a growing Christian influence at the school and in the business community.”
David Eldridge, current pastor of Dawson, added, “I am delighted to hear of the choice of Dr. Beck Taylor as the 19th president of Samford University. I, along with other local Baptist pastors, had the privilege to meet with Dr. Taylor this past week and hear his testimony of faith in Christ, robust commitment to historic Christian teachings, and of his desire to faithfully lead Samford to equip their graduates to make a kingdom impact in their lives and professional callings.”
Commitment to mission
Taylor noted his commitment to continuing and nurturing the Baptist tradition and heritage of Samford as well as maintaining and expanding the relationships with other evangelical churches.
And he is committed to the Christian mission of the school while engaging and helping shape culture, he said. “I have always maintained a commitment to the essentials of orthodox faith — the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of scripture.”
Fenton also articulated what the search committee discovered in its research.
“Julie will be a Christian role model for the young women at Samford as she has the rare combination of humility and inner confidence to support Beck and to represent the university,” he said. “She has a kind and contagious Christian faith that will allow her to be easily accepted by the Samford family as well as the broader community.
“I not only endorse the selection of Dr. and Mrs. Taylor, but I am absolutely excited and enthusiastic about the Presidential Search Committee’s choice.”
The Taylors have three children: Zachary, 25, who is a Nashville-based music recording artist; Lauren, 22, a recent Whitworth graduate and entering medical school student on the West Coast; and Chloe, 14, who is returning to her birth city. “She’s our Alabama passport — our Birmingham baby and passport back to Birmingham,” Taylor shared jokingly.
In accordance with Samford’s bylaws, the presidential search process was guided by a committee of former trustee board chairs. The membership of the committee represented trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and Alabama Baptists. Tim Vines, a member of Shades Mountain Baptist, and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, served as co-chair of the committee with Stukes, a member of First Baptist Church, Jasper.
Read more at samford.edu.