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The present campus of Samford University, known as Howard College from 1841 to 1965, is an architectural showplace and a monument to the vision of former president Harwell Goodwin Davis (1939-1958). Davis sought ways to insulate the school from economic depression and war, eventually winning a contract with the federal government to host a branch of the U.S. Navy's wartime V-12 training program. The Navy brought Howard money and men at a time when both were in short supply at the college. The money in particular had far-reaching effects on Howard. The V-12 funds and postwar enrollment boom allowed Howard to leave behind its increasingly inadequate campus in the East Lake community of Birmingham, Alabama. By the late 1940s Howard's leaders had selected a site for a spacious new campus in Shades Valley, just south of Birmingham.
Some influential college supporters tried to convince Davis that the new campus should be architecturally modern, with sleek glass and steel structures. However, Davis insisted on uniform Georgian Revival architecture arranged around a lush quadrangle that would serve as the geographic and social heart of the new campus. Thanks to the force of Davis's will and clarity of his vision, Samford University's campus, occupied in 1957, is one of the most beautiful in the nation.
Harwell Davis's successors, Leslie S. Wright and Thomas E. Corts, preserved the integrity of Davis's original plans for the campus--so much so that Samford's new $27 million, state-of-the-art "Sciencenter" not only is a model blending of modern function and Georgian Revival architecture, but actually occupies the space appointed for such a building over half a century ago. As the attached materials attest, Samford's award-winning architecture and campus plan make for a spectacular, park-like institutional setting and contribute significantly to the function of the university.