Passion for Samford University’s Legacy League shows when Julie Taylor, first lady and executive director, and Sharon Smith, managing director of Legacy League, talk about the group.
“You name ‘hard,’ and our students have faced it,” Smith said.
These students are defying the negative statistics, and Legacy League improves their chances by offering 38 “transformational scholarships,” Smith said.
She shared that one student was abandoned on the front porch of an orphanage; another was surrendered to Social Services by her mother.
Words like homelessness, abandonment, foster care and major medical crises surfaced.
“Everybody that I know from growing up is either in jail or dead,” said one student from Haiti. He received extensive financial and emotional support from the Legacy League. He now has a full-time job and is in the Reserve.
Several Legacy League students are first-generation college students.
“We want them to graduate and turn the tide in their family. It’s amazing to watch the ripple effect of that,” Smith said.
“The redemption is not only an education,” chimes in Taylor. “The redemption is a new identity in whom God has them to be.”
A meaningful history
An auxiliary of the university, the Legacy League works collaboratively with its members and the community to raise scholarships for students with significant financial need. The focus has not always been on scholarships, however.
The initial intent of the organization was to help raise funds for the endowment and better equipment. Later, the focus shifted to landscaping and furnishings. Now the primary goal is to offer life-changing scholarships. Approximately $1.3 million in scholarships has been awarded to 200 students.
Not only did Legacy League’s purpose change, but also its name. What started as the Howard College Cooperative Association in 1902 morphed into Howard College Auxiliary in 1925, being founded by 16 women. Samford Auxiliary came next before the current name was adopted in 2011. Legacy League commemorates the legacy created by women through campus improvements. But more importantly, it represents the lives of students who receive scholarships.
Serving hands, open ears
Fundraising for scholarships isn’t the only activity of Legacy League. Monthly fellowship suppers are a highlight for both students and members. The suppers, often hosted in the president’s home, allow students and members to interact and build relationships. Students go home encouraged with one hand full of extra food and another with a goody bag in the other filled with gift cards and practical items.
“I love how you all pour into us and encourage us through getting to know us in person at fellowship suppers, but also through the sweet letters that I receive through the year on my birthday and almost every holiday,” said a scholarship recipient.
“This group goes beyond the scholarship — this group represents family,” noted a former Legacy League scholarship recipient.
By being in a relationship with the students, Legacy League tunes into the practical, emotional and spiritual needs enabling them to connect students with resources to help them be successful.
Legacy League not only cares about the students it serves, it cares about its members.
The organization’s tagline, “Be involved, be inspired, make an impact,” models the ministry they provide. Legacy League members are “vibrant, committed and engaged.” Just ask the 100-year-old member who participated in two events last year.
All events are open to the community. “We’ve given a challenge to our board to invite, invite, invite,” quips Taylor.
A beautiful thing
Taylor completed her first year as executive director this summer, helping Legacy League achieve its most significant fundraising year. “I joined an organization that’s a rocket right now in terms of mission, in terms of a lamppost and a light for the Lord,” Taylor said.
“We are strong and have lots of opportunity. By His grace, Legacy League was provided for through the pandemic. By His grace, we have grown. So why wouldn’t we step forward in faith?”
Much of Legacy League’s success, according to Taylor, is from Smith’s management, the willingness of its 760 members to embrace change and the many volunteers who gave unselfishly of their time. Last year, more than 300 people volunteered, logging more than 5,500 hours of service.
“This organization is not tired,” Taylor said. “[As chief strategy officer], my job is to come alongside and say yes. Can we have more students? Yes. Can we have more endowments? Yes.”
Taylor balances her time between being a mother to a 15-year-old and Samford’s 6,000 students. She also has responsibilities to the alums, trustees and the president’s office.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of,” she said.
Legacy members are a “funnel of love.”
For more information about Legacy League and its impactful, compelling and redemptive mission, visit Samford.edu/legacyleague. Recruitment is ongoing. Those under 40 may be interested in the events and programs hosted by the Legacy League’s junior board.
“We welcome anybody who believes in the power of Christian education to change a life,” Smith said.