The Samford community is invited to share their thoughts about President Emeritus Thomas E. Corts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
These words of President Westmoreland
about Dr. Corts that sum up what I want to say: There is no way to measure the impact of Tom Corts' life and ministry on thousands of lives whom he touched.
I am a person of the Indian decent working for Southern Company for over 20 years. I want to attend his funeral service and say some of these things to his wife, but I am physically limited…as I just went through a shoulder surgery, and recuperating at home.
In 2001, after watching a bought-copy of "Candle in the Dark," a movie on a VHS tape, I noticed, Dr. Cort's name mentioned on the "Thank You" list. That was a long weekend, and so I called his home number. Surprisingly, I was able to really speak with him. After a short talk, he asked me to come and meet him on the following Monday. I personally met him to express the desire I had in my heart to help some other-wise deprived children and some pastors in India. He told me to start a non-profit organization, and volunteered to be the first board of Director. Towards the end of this first meeting, told me a number of good things about about Dr. Henry Drummond (whose sculptured bust was in Dr. Corts' office), and game me a copy Dr. Drummond's famous book, "The Greatest Thing in the World."
Dr. Corts even gave a talk on the life of William Carrey, his contributions to India, and the role of Samford University in the production of the film "Candle in the Dark" to the Indian Bible Study group at my house.
During his tenure as a board member of Helping Hands, I met him many times in his office, and he was easily available to provide advice as needed. Also, as a good example, he supported a young girl in India as a sponsor.
More recently, I lost in touch with him, as he was given various responsibilities by the Bush administration in Washington, D.C. – mostly during his absence in Birmingham.
I accidentally read a letter published in a local newspaper, and decided to get back in touch with Dr. Corts, after a recovery from my surgery. Meanwhile, I heard the news.
Surely, Dr. Corts touched my life, and many others in India.
Dr Thomas Corts created and seized moments that were life altering for countless individuals, worldwide. Like a master chess player, he knew when to match persons to opportunities, enlisting us all to the winning team. He had a special interest in the Daniel House, Samford's London Study Center. After 911 broke the world apart, we in the Daniel House felt lost amid turbulent times. Dr Corts visited the center and his wisdom and calm provided us with steadiness and hope. Dr Corts had the faith, vision, wisdom, courage, and leadership qualities to lead us to a better place. The Samford community - past, present and future - are blessed through opportunities created by Dr Corts. Marla and family, you are in our prayers. May he rest in Peace.
Chair: Family Studies, Samford University
It is 2 P.M. on Sunday afternoon, February 8, 2009, and though I am not in Birmingham at a memorial service, I am giving prayers of thanks for the life and work of Tom Corts and for God's comfort and the gift of wonderful memories for Marla and the Corts family.
Tom Corts was a great man: intelligent, charming, kind, innovative, and enthusiastic. I only enjoyed his leadership for a short time at Wingate College, between when I arrived in 1979 and his departure for Samford in 1983. But I benefited from his friendship, his educational leadership, and his overwhelming interest in international education.
I never begrudge the new friends of my old friends, and I was and am thrilled that Samford was fortunate that Tom Corts brought his leadership, international interests, and friendship to its campus, too. What a wonderful, if too short, run through a life of service and joy.
Blessings to Tom, the Corts Family, and Their Friends,
Professor of History
Can't you just hear our Lord's words echoed at the gate to the celestial city: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful....” Matthew 25:21 NLT
“Faithful servant!” Thomas E. Corts modeled and mirrored Christ's words: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others...” Matthew 20:27,28 NLT
In the years (2002-2009) that my wife and I we have known him, Tom Corts has been a role model of 2 Peter 1:2-11 faithfully applied in his total life and in every relationship that we know about: his relationship to Jesus Christ, to his beloved mate, Marla, to his immediate family, to his greater family, to his family heritage, to his calling and mission in life, to the use of his spiritual gifts and resources, to the stewardship of his mental genius and of his sense of history --- especially his passion to research the historic evangelistic influence of the Dwight Lyman Moody era and the “gospel music” heritage of Philip P. Bliss.
In a June 26, 2008 e-mail he wrote about this passion: “I plan to loop up through north central Indiana and over to Ashtabula the last week in July on my annual family heritage tour. Along with my old memories, the newer ones we made together are still relished, and wandering back there is a trip down memory lane.”
He continued: “I can't tell you how the symposium, the book, the marker, etc. all satisfied something way down deep in my soul -- like meeting an obligation you've long held unfulfilled. I know I needn't feel so proprietary about Bliss and the train disaster, but somehow, I do.”
The “symposium, book, and marker” all refer to the 2002 and 2003 “Philip P. Bliss 125 Year of Remembrance” events that took place in his beloved hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio, where we met while I served as pastor of the church where his five brothers, sister, and parents filled the back pew on Sunday evenings.
Dr. Corts was the organizing genius of this series of historic events that took place in Ashtabula in 1876 and left memories and markers that document the importance of the tragic bridge disaster that took place a few hundred feet from the ball diamond where as a youth he “hit his only home run that bounced off the top of the fence.”
If and when the Church Christ promised to build wanders out of the mega church wilderness of “sport-shirted, blue-jeaned” preachers with their too loud repetitious contemporary music to re-discover the hymnody and gospel songs of the last century, perhaps Tom Cort's affection for the Bliss and Moody era might spark a fire going that will one day put the issue of contemporary “music” in a more realistic perspective.
Tom shared something of my conviction that something needs to happen to restore some biblical, singable and “rememberable” words and music to Church life and worship. He shared my lament that presently the trend is to make the worshiper stand too long and repeat too many words that may never be heard or sung again by most of those present.
He was an enduring model to me of just how to appear in public when representing Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ went to the cross in the finest of linen “tunics” (John 19:23,24) to die on the cross for me, and if the office of the priesthood in Exodus 28:2,3 (NLT) was instructed to “Make sacred garments for Aaron, that are glorious and beautiful... that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service,” --- then is it not right to show this kind of respect for the role of a minister of Jesus Christ, our High Priest?
Like many contemporary sports personalities seen in sports arenas, and broadcast booths, and other professional and non-professional persons in all walks of life, the minister needs to dress to deserve respect. On a very hot Ashtabula day in July, 2003, Dr. Tom Corts appeared in a suit and tie to deliver the dedicatory address of the new Ohio Philip P. Bliss marker in the hospital parking lot.
Many tributes from his many years of service and spheres of influence: academic, ecclesiastical, political, and personal --- will add luster to his memory.
I would just like to focus on one of his character qualities that have impacted me personally. Tom was classic model of a Christlike servant with an uncommon compassionate touch for common people with his natural ability to make them feel uncommonly worthwhile --- like as if they might be walking on a red carpet in his presence. He was uncommonly loyal to friendships with people who might otherwise be overlooked. Evelyn and I were often made to feel that uncommon touch for which we are deeply grateful.
May all who grieve Tom's passing be enriched by our memories of his servant lifestyle modeled in our relationships with him and his loved ones.
D. L. Moody whom, Tom greatly admired, is probably best known for his quotable quote: “The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly committed to Him. By the grace of God I will be that man.” I, for one, am happy to nominate Thomas E. Corts for that honor --- “to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Virgil V. & Evelyn Koller Reeve
One of the joyful experiences of my life has been the memory of being among the first recipients of those "17,000 diplomas" signed personally by Dr. Thomas Corts. In the years following, he has remained a wonderful friend, inspiring leader, and continual source of encouragement. Surely it is no exaggeration to suggest that Alabama - indeed, the entire south - has lost one of its greatest leaders of the latter twentieth century
I must confess that when he was first announced as Samford's new president, many of us weren't so sure. Our retiring president, Dr. Leslie Wright, had been a great speaker, an effective leader, and the epitome of southern graciousness. Who was this guy from up north? Tom Corts was not even a graduate of Samford. Nor had he ever lived in Alabama, which to my twenty year-old mind, was still the center of the universe.
Both my roommate, Mark Chilton, and I had been elected to the student senate that year; thus we knew there would be opportunties to observe and work with Dr. Corts firsthand. Elaine Ladd (now married to Dr. Marlin Gill of Decatur) was then president of our Student Government Association, the first female ever elected to that position. We soon learned that not only was Samford going to be okay, it would actually thrive under this jewel of a new president we had been profoundly privileged to secure.
Years later, on two separate occasions, I invited Dr. Corts to address our local Kiwanis Club. His second speech specifically relating to constitution reform in Alabama. I asked Elaine Gill to introduce him that day, and I think all three of us enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce. (I know I did.)
There are four specific areas which best summarize my admiration of Dr. Thomas Corts:
1. HIS UNWAVERING BELIEF was that an institution of higher learning can be both rigorously academic and unapologetically Christian. He lamented the perception - indeed, sometimes the reality - that colleges are prone to champion one area while viewing the other with suspicion or even disdain. "Both the spritual and intellectual realm are gifts from God," I once heard him say. "We will work to uphold that balance, and bear witness to its importance, even if Samford becomes the only remaining university in America still doing so."
2. HIS GRACIOUS SPIRIT endeared him to admirers from all walks of life. Perhaps the unique perspective of growing up as a minister's son nurtured his keen insight into a wide range of humanity, which in turned helped him become the effective leader we've been fortunate to observe these many years. On one occasion, Dr. Corts was invited to speak for a Sunday morning event at my home church. Immediately afterwards, our pastor and his wife were called away to a sudden emergency, which left the nineteen year old children's intern, Jack Lovelace (who was soon planning to enroll at Samford), and me (a recent SU graduate myself) to entertain President Corts at the local country club during lunch. We almost panicked, but Dr. Corts soon made us feel totally at ease. No respecter of persons, Thomas Corts would continue to guide Samford along a traditional centrist course that encouraged acceptance of differing opinions, with little tolerance for religious extremism in either direction. In short, he modeled that rare description of "a man of books, a man of the people."
3. HIS MONUMENTAL COURAGE steered Samford toward a self-perpetuating board of trustees, over the strong objection of his detractors. By doing so, he successfully avoided the lure of being drawn into the firestorm of denominational and political captivity, while guarding the sacred heritage and future viability of the institution whose care and protection had been entrusted to him.
4. HIS VISIONARY COMMITMENT to improving the quality of life in his adopted state of Alabama extended far beyond Baptist circles of influence. He spearheaded a variety of much-needed constitutional and educational reform efforts that continue to this day. Future generations, as well as those of us still living, will remain forever in his debt.
Thomas Corts was indeed a man of superb talent, unsurpassed leadership skills, and thankfully, a vast range of interests. Only in the latter portion of his life did we learn of his longtime fascination with hymnwriter Phillip Bliss, whose tragic death in a train accident occurred near the Corts family home in Ashtabula, Ohio. More than once over the next few days, I suspect the Corts family will hear words of comfort drawn from "It Is Well With My Soul", often considered his most famous hymn. I will instead recall a closing line from the equally beautiful but lesser-known Phillip Bliss hymn, "Man of Sorrows, What a Name:"
"When he comes, our glorious King,
All his ransomed home to bring,
Then a-new this song we'll sing,
Hallelujah, what a Savior!"
Until then, Dr. Corts, we carry on with hope and gratitude... "For God.. For Learning... Forever."
In life, one has very few people they can call true mentors. Tom Corts stands out to me as one of mine. I simply couldn’t find anything about the man that I didn’t respect and admire. He had the total package…character, integrity, honesty, intelligence, eloquence, servanthood, vision, and energy all wrapped up in a spirit that showed his deep Christian commitment.
I’ll remember these things: his personal visit to encourage me in 1995 when I was going through a career crisis; his visit to my office in 2001 to ask me serve as a Samford Trustee, one of the great honors of my life; his personal attention to our two daughters as they were contemplating attending college, and the influence he had on getting them to come here; he and Marla standing in the gap supporting us after the death of my wife Daina’s mother; his handing my daughter her diploma as she graduated from Samford in 2006, and allowing me to sit on the stage and participate in the program that day; his call from Washington to again encourage me as I made the transition to the Samford administration last year; and, my last conversation with him last Saturday in the arena named for him and his wife Marla, where we made plans to have lunch with one another.
In spite of the rigors of the job he had as a university president and the subsequent jobs he did simply out of a sense of duty to our state and nation, I realize I’m remembering the times he seemed to block everything else out just to focus on helping me and my family. What a great example of a Christian servant leader.
About that lunch we planned last Saturday…my daughter reminded me that we’ll someday have that lunch in a place much more glorious than either of us envisioned. What a day that will be.
Vice President - University Relations
I was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of my friend Tom Corts.
I became acquainted with Dr. Corts in the fall of 1983 soon after he became the new president of Samford. He recruited me to chair the National Fund Drive for 1984. During that year I had the opportunity to travel with him to many cities visiting alumni groups. As a result, a wonderful friendship developed and grew. Through his influence my love and support for Samford continued throughout his tenure.
In a letter to the alumni on September 26, 1983, as a campaign chair I said, “With the support of alumni and friends of our new president, Dr. Thomas Corts will lead the University into a new era.” That is exactly what he did!
My heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to Marla and the Corts family – so, farewell my friend.
Former Chair and Member of the Board of Overseers
Class of 1955
Very sad to learn of the unexpected death today of Tom Corts, the former president of Samford University, the small private college that I attended in Alabama.
All Samford alumni are indebted to Dr. Corts. More than buildings, programs or the vastly expanded endowment that he helped build—as impressive and valuable as all those things are—I treasure his contribution of preserving Samford’s historic Christian character while steering it safely away from the control of extreme fundamentalists. In this way he saved what is most precious about Samford for future generations.
From the blog entry "Thomas Corts, RIP"
I remember Dr. Corts not only for his leadership at Samford, but for the family man that he was.
Through my friendship with two of his children, Rachel and Chris, on a few occasions I was fortunate to visit the Corts' home. It was on those occasions wherein I observed that Dr. Corts was just as personable and affable as if I had bumped to him while walking on campus. Dr. Corts had a unique way of making every student feel like "part of his family" and that is just one of the many reasons while as a young freshman at Samford - I never really felt that far away from home.
I also remember in one of the convocations opening a new school year, Dr. Corts digressing about a new movie he had just seen - "The Dead Poets Society." I can still remember Dr. Corts talking about the importance of "seizing the day." He was truly a man, scholar and leader who best exemplified that trait.
Rachael, Chris , Mrs. Marla and the entire Courts family, you have my sincerest condolences.
Class of 1992
Dr. Corts was a true gentleman and scholar. He was the quintessential university president, always leading by example on and off campus. He represented Samford with astonishing dignity and remarkable humility. He will always remain in a class by himself.
Paula and Rod Hovater
2008 Samford Alumni of the Year
I am a member of the Samford family by virtue of the class of ’82. Even though Dr. Corts came after I was gone, and even though I never met him in person, I am grieving his death. I paused to think why I would feel this way for a man I never met, but quickly realized that it was because of how much this great leader has done to make Samford what it is today. For me, that is felt in a very personal way. For you see, my wife and I have the great joy of having both our daughters choose to be there now. Were it not for his passionate leadership Samford would not be what it is today, nor would it be having the same effect on our daughters that it had on my wife and I. Dr. Corts’ legacy will live on because of the Samford family and the Samford family will live on because of him. Thank you Dr. Corts from a student, a parent and a member of the “family”.
class of ‘82
It has been several years since I had the pleasure to speak to Dr. Corts, but I shall never forget his visit to Fort Payne to speak at First Baptist on a Sunday morning. His message on that beautiful day (commenting on that, too, from the pulpit) had to do with the simple eloquence with which we speak to one another when we are about kingdom work. I was amazed at the structure, power, and delivery of his sermon, and have never forgotten what an elegant, endearing, and gentlemanly man he was. Several years after that encounter, I found myself late to the annual Alabama Baptist Entity trustee retreat Friday night dinner at Shocco, and thus seated at the back dining table of the entire room. Turning to his right, Dr. Corts saw me arrive and seat myself, more than fashionably late; extending his hand, he greets and calls me by name (first and last!). The dinner was our chance to reconnect, and reminded me of his passion for the youth of Alabama, which he fleshed out in his work at Samford. There were unexpected treats from him the next day, as he led a discussion group I attended. Oh, for more of his kind!
Steven A. Isbell, M.D.
I first remember meeting Dr. Corts soon after he was installed as the Samford President. I was the newly elected President of the Junior Class and he convened a meeting of the Class Presidents to share his vision for Samford. We met in his office and he laid out a grand plan for the University. At the time I remember thinking the man must be delusional when considering the enormity of the goals he outlined. I soon came to understand and appreciate that he was a truly gifted visionary. Fast forward many years later and I remember meeting with Dr. Corts again, but this time in my office, when he invited me to become a member of the Samford Board of Trustees. Even though he had fulfilled every one of those goals outlined so many years before, here he sat in my office still outlining his vision for the University. Dr. Corts was truly a man of great vision, a skilled statesman, and a world class ambassador for Samford University. Above all else he was a dedicated disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ who never tired in His cause at Samford University. The world, and Samford, is better because of Tom Corts.
John M. Floyd ’85, L ’88, MSEM ’99
I was a freshman at Samford in the Fall of 2000. One afternoon, as I returned to my dorm from class, I discovered a message on my answering machine requesting that I return a call from the President's office. A million thoughts flew through my mind as I dialed the number for his secretary. She immediately scheduled an appointment with Dr. Corts and myself. After several anxiety-filled days, the date and time of the appointment was finally here. Immediately upon entering his office, he greeted me with a warm smile and handshake. He soon revealed he had known my great-aunt who had worked with him at Wingate. He had remembered her mentioning to him in an earlier correspondence that I would be enrolling at Samford. We spent the better part of an hour discussing my family, his family and my future. Leaving his presence that afternoon, I felt comforted and suddenly at home on campus.
A couple years later, I was invited to join devotional study led by Dr. and Mrs. Corts. A small group of us would meet with them about once a month to dialog about Henry Drummond. We learned Dr. Corts had a great passion for Drummond. Each class, he would bring a small bust of Mr. Drummond and set it on the end of the table so he too could be a part of our conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed subject, but more importantly, I enjoyed being with Dr. and Mrs. Corts. Their spirit was uplifting and their passion was contagious.
When I think of my times at Samford, I can't help but remember Dr. Corts and the gracious warmth he added to my college experience.
Katie LaRue Sherlock
Class of 2004
“Well done my good and faithful servant.” I know these were the words our Lord spoke upon Dr. Corts’ arrival in heaven yesterday. A friend, mentor, leader, and shining example of Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no wise guidance, the nation falls, but in the multitude of counselors there is victory.” Thank you Dr. Corts for your incredibly wise guidance, and the leadership example you set far beyond the scope of what was ever required on paper.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Corts Family, and the entire Samford Family during this difficult time.
Autumn Baggott Toussaint
Class of 1993
While we all are, appropriately, recalling Dr. Corts’ many outstanding public services, I am remembering also his equally many gestures of generosity extended very quietly, gentlemanly and without fanfare. I think he was fundamentally a private person, which can be challenging in the arena in which he and Marla lived and worked. But he was unswervingly committed to the positive role that education can play in the lives of individuals and entire societies, and he made many personal sacrifices for it.
I am hearing from many former students who say that he helped to change their lives completely. He certainly figured prominently in my own professional and personal life, for which I am eternally grateful. He once called me a plant, saying that he hoped he could help me grow.And he did! He and Marla met my future husband before my own parents did. My last communication with him was via email while he and Marla were traveling in Africa on his most recent assignment; he wrote to inquire about the work of the Alabama Poverty Project, in which he remained deeply interested and concerned even when he could not attend board meetings due to his travel. As I type this I am looking at one of several items of encouragement sent my way; it hangs above my desk with his inimitable handwriting.
Carol Ann Vaughn Cross
Former Director, Christian Women’s Leadership Center, Samford
Dr. Corts is the finest example of a true Christian gentleman that I have ever known. While he had high expectations for himself and for others, he was compassionate and a champion for those whom he felt were oppressed.
My heart is full of joy and sadness with the shocking news of the sudden death of President Emeritus Tom Corts.
As a faculty member during all 23 years of Dr. Corts’ presidency, I cherish the memories of his leadership in the academics of Samford University as well as his mission for the university. His vision and commitment to Christian higher education is now felt in our city, state, the nation and all over the world. My life is better for God, for learning, forever because of the life of Tom Corts. One of my many blessings during his tenure is that three of my children received diplomas signed by him. Another is observing his love for his wife, children, spouses and grandchildren and their support for him through the years. My prayers are with Marla, who devoted her life to Samford as a servant during these years, and with all the family that God will wrap them in the comfort of His arms every day.
Mary H. Hudson
Retired Mathematics Professor
During my years at Samford, Dr. Corts made a powerful impression upon me. I'll never forget his stirring opening address to our incoming freshman class in August of 2001. His words, carefully measured and chosen, brought both challenge and encouragement, and he immediately captured my interest by combining a paraphrase of Kerouac with the responsibilities of college life: "Whither goest thou, young student, in thy shiny car in the night?" As we students approached the "shiny" prospect of newfound independence, Dr. Corts gently reminded us to enter this early phase of adulthood with maturity and purpose. Little did any of us know that in less than one month's time, our nation would undergo trials that would make everyone more cognizant of his or her civic duties in a democratic society; but even before the harsh reality of September 11th, Dr. Corts was already pointing us toward responsible citizenship.
From then on, I made it a point to attend all functions at which Dr. Corts would be speaking. I would usually see some of my brightest professors at these events, for they, too, revered Dr. Corts for his remarkable abilities as a public speaker - he was a consummate orator. On one extraordinary occasion, Dr. Corts shared his life story with students and faculty over the course of a lunch. I listened intently to every word, knowing that I was witness to something unique: a leader who chose to serve humbly in order to lead assuredly.
For all of his inspirational words, there was far more to Dr. Corts than mere eloquence; as a man of wisdom, character and integrity, he demonstrated what it meant to accompany words with actions, rather than saying one thing and then doing another. Beyond all of this, he was a man of faith, and he genuinely lived out his beliefs with patience and dedication, leading the way for others to follow in his example. His was a life lived for God and for learning, and it will be remembered forever.
Joel Scott Davis
Class of 2005
Dr. Tom Corts was a fine Christian statesman and a friend to all Alabama Baptists! He led Samford University through some challenging times in its growth and its emergence as one of the leading Christian Universities in our nation. I found Tom Corts to be a dedicated Christian and one that truly wanted to make a difference with his life and testimony for Christ and the Kingdom…And He did!
We did not always agree on some issues, but he was always willing to listen to my point of view when we would discuss those issues. I truly respected and admired this great leader among us and will always be grateful to him for his vision, commitment, and dedication to Samford University, the Alabama Baptist State Convention, his local church, and above all his love, devotion, and example that he set before his wife, his children, grandchildren, and all who knew him.
All of us here at the Birmingham Baptist Association send our deepest sympathy to Marla, and the entire Cort’s family. We will truly, truly, miss Tom Cort’s as a leader and I will miss him as a friend and brother in Christ. I learned from Tom Cort’s that you don’t have to be identical twins to be brothers!!
Mike D. McLemore,
As a faculty member at Wingate University, I served under Tom Corts for nine years. As a leader he was visionary and inspired the best in me. He began the international study programs at Wingate (W’International) and led our school to baccalaureate status. As a friend he was warm and considerate. Tom’s first official decision when he came to Wingate was to grant me a maternity leave for the year. Thus, I became close friends with Marla and saw Tom informally at their home or mine. My daughter and he shared the same birthday, and when she turned five, he appeared at our house with flowers and candy. He was special, and I will miss him greatly.
Professor of English
"Thomas Corts is my name. Nice to meet you" is the first statement he made, introducing himself to me on a tour in Tehran, Iran over 10 years ago. I had the privilege of being his tour guide and little did I know that me and my family's lives would be forever changed as a result of this encounter. Today I lost a dear friend, my greatest role model in life and a part of my heart forever. Dr.Corts life has been and will always be a legacy to those who got to know him and the world has become a better place because of him. He is and will always be alive in our hearts and minds for as long as we are alive.
Class of 2004-McWhorter School of Pharmacy
It was my great pleasure to work at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law for 6 years. While I followed the accomplishments of Dr. Corts for many years before being employed at Samford, it was not until after I began working on campus I learned first-hand that Dr. Corts was a great scholar, a forward-thinking leader and one of the greatest orators I have ever been privileged to hear. But perhaps my fondest memory is just talking to Dr. and Mrs. Corts at a football game . . not the university president, his wife, and his employee, but rather 3 parents . . . during my daughter's freshman year at Samford. It is in that moment I realized how much time and love Dr. Corts invested not only in the lives of his own children and grandchildren, but also in the lives of ours. My prayers are with Mrs. Corts and the Corts family. I pray you find the strength and comfort only our Heavenly Father can provide as I know the next part of Dr. Corts' journey begins with the words "Well done my good and faithful servant."
"And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:11
2002 - 2008
I was born in May 1983. By the time I graduated from Samford in Dec. 2004, Dr. Corts had been president of the university my entire life. What a remarkable legacy of service! Having worked as a recruiter for Samford, I am particularly grateful for the contribution Dr. Corts made to geograhic diversity during his tenure. I have worked with families from Kentucky, South Carolina, Michigan, Texas, California, and a host of other states and countries. I love hearing people's stories of how they heard about Samford and why they decided to visit. And I am constantly reminded of the fact that Dr. Corts is the president who led Samford from a regional liberal arts college to a nationally-recognized research university. Truly, the world is better for it.
Dr. Corts was a one of a kind human. A gentleman, a scholar, a devout Christian, a gifted leader, a treasured friend, and so much more. What he did for Samford University can't really even be put into words, no matter the viewpoint. For me personally, he was a great friend, mentor and hero. He encouraged me to always follow my dreams and meet my goals. The friendship he, and his family, showed my family is immeasurable. It was my distinct honor to not only know Thomas E. Corts the University President, serving alongside him in numerous capacities, but Tom Corts the man: husband, father & grandfather. A bright light in this state, and dare I say this nation or even world, was extinguished today. Here is to Dr. Corts' principles, his life, his example, and his service to God, country, and Samford. He will be truly missed.
Class of 2005 - Brock School of Business
Former Samford Ambassador
Dr. Corts was a truly kind, Godly man who touched so many lives with his generous and gracious spirit. He and his wife Marla truly ministered to me and my family in so many ways throughout my Samford years. Dr. Corts was an unwavering light to so many and his faithfulness to serving Christ through serving others has challenged all of us to be the "light and salt" we are called to be. I am praying for the Corts family to feel the comforting arms of our Savior during this difficult time.
Love In Christ,
Julie Coons Williams
Class of '91
I was one of the 17,000 persons receiving my diploma from the hands of Dr. Corts. What a wonderful man and great leader for Samford. I also had the privilege of serving with his wife in Samford Auxiliary. My prayers are with the family.
Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC
It was one of the great blessings of my life to work for Dr. Corts and Samford University. Dr. Corts gave me the chance to be Samford’s first full-time sports information director in 1985, after I had come to the staff a year earlier. Last weekend’s sold out Davidson game was, in a large sense, a fulfillment of his vision for Samford athletics that he crafted 25 years ago. I will always remember Dr. and Mrs. Corts and their family for their kindness and for their confidence in me. Evidence of his love and commitment to Samford can be seen in the university it is today. My thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Corts and the family.
New Orleans, La.
Dr. Corts elevated Samford University to greatness. One of the most important reasons I chose to move to Samford was to study under Dr. Corts’ leadership. I am blessed to have done just that for the final year of his presidency. One word comes to mind when I think of Dr. Corts: service. We are all great beneficiaries of his competent and faithful service to Samford, to Birmingham, to Alabama, to his country, to Christian higher education, and to the Kingdom.
Beck A. Taylor
Dean, Brock School of Business
Dr. Thomas Corts was a visionary Christian educator, a conscientious public servant, a world citizen and an able ambassador for Samford. His faith in Christ imbued his vocation with passion and purpose. My family and I shall miss him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Marla, and the entire Corts family.
Claude H. Rhea, III
Class of 1976
Law Class of 1980
The Samford University family and the world have lost a great person today. He left both better because of his sojourn with us. I sat three or four seats from him at the Davidson game Saturday and enjoyed a short chat with him, so it is an understatement to say I'm shocked at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with the Corts family and the whole Samford family this day.
Joe W. McDade
Class of 1961
Tom Corts was a top-tier gentleman in every aspect of his life. He was a man of faith without compromise or apology. His compassion, sympathy, and empathy for others will be remembered by all of us who knew and loved him. Personally, I have been blessed to call him a mentor and friend. I am a better man because of my relationship with Dr. Tom Corts.
Chris A. Gillespie
Samford University Director, Athletic Training Education
Dr. Corts was such a genuinely nice person. Prior to my arrival on Samford’s campus in 1998, my mother’s boss, who knew Dr. Corts, sent Dr. Corts a letter asking him to look out for me. When I arrived on campus Dr. Corts asked me to come by his office for a visit. During our first visit, he asked me why I chose Samford, he was so impressed by my “story” that he asked me to speak at a donor appreciation banquet that fall semester. I was a little scared because I had never given a speech before, but he provided me with help preparing for it and was very thankful for my willingness to do it. Every time I saw him on campus he always called me by name. That really made an impression on me and confirmed one of the many reasons I chose to attend Samford, which was my desire to be a “name” and not just a “number” on campus. He was a great leader and my Samford experience would not have been the same without him. My thoughts and prayers are with the Corts family and the entire Samford community.
Though I have not seen Dr. Tom Corts and Marla in many years, I kept up with them as much as possible because they were friends when he served as President of Wingate College (now University) where I have been employed for the last 38 years. Dr. Tom and Marla were so kind, considerate and genuine and were a blessing to me in so many ways. Having been educated as a nurse, Marla enjoyed working at the local hospital and was there when our son, Joshua, was born prematurely. She checked on both of us and made us feel so special. Since I am very involved with Woman’s Missionary Union’s missions and ministries, I was delighted when he told me one Christmas at the time of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions that their family had determined that they would give to the LMCO at least as much as they spent on the most expensive Christmas present they bought for the family. It certainly was evidence of his desire to share the good news of the gospel. The world was certainly a better place because of Dr. Tom Corts and his influence.
What a sad time for us...and a wonderful time for Doctor Corts. All of the Samford family join with Mrs. Corts and their family in this grief.