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Whitworth University President Beck Taylor leaving to lead Samford University

March 10, 2021 Updated Wed., March 10, 2021 at 9:40 p.m.

Whitworth University President Beck A. Taylor speaks at a commencement ceremony on May 19 at the Spokane Arena.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Whitworth University President Beck A. Taylor speaks at a commencement ceremony on May 19 at the Spokane Arena. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

Beck Taylor, who has served as president of Whitworth University for more than a decade, will step down at the end of May for a new job.

Taylor, 51, is taking the helm at Samford University, a 5,700-student private Christian institution in Birmingham, Alabama, Whitworth University announced Wednesday.

Taylor previously served as dean of Samford’s Brock School of Business from 2005-10 before becoming Whitworth’s 18th president.

For him and his wife, Julie, Taylor said in a prepared statement that he can only compare the honor of being considered for the Samford presidency with that of “being members of the Whitworth family.”

“We love Whitworth and its mission. We love all of you,” he said. “This place has shaped us profoundly, and Julie and I are better people because of the spiritual and professional growth we’ve experienced here. It has been the joy of a lifetime to serve you.

“I hope that in some small measure, I’ve been able to sustain and strengthen Whitworth’s Christ-centered, mind-and-heart mission. If so, it has been a grace of God.”

Taylor was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Samford University’s Board of Trustees moved on Wednesday to elect Taylor as the school’s 19th president, effective July 1, according to an announcement from Samford University.

Taylor will succeed Andrew Westmoreland, who is retiring after serving as president since 2006.

The Whitworth president was recommended by a 23-member search committee after a six-month process that saw more than 80 nominations and applicants from across the country.

“(Taylor) brings an exceptional record of academic leadership, demonstrated success in fundraising, and a personal commitment to Samford,” William J. Stevens, chair of the Samford Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “We unanimously and confidently agree that President-elect Taylor possesses the experience, strategic vision, and alignment with our values to continue building Samford’s reputation as a leading Christian university.”

Taylor said in the Samford announcement he is “profoundly honored and excited to return to Samford University, and to follow my good friend, Andy Westmoreland.”

Brian Kirkpatrick, chair of Whitworth’s board of trustees, said the board will name an interim president soon and plans to take up matters concerning the search and transition during the board’s meeting in April.

Speaking to Taylor’s tenure, Kirkpatrick said Whitworth’s president has led during “a dynamic period of growth and challenge” at the university, which had 3,100 students enrolled this past fall.

Taylor spearheaded the school’s 10-year strategic plan, which was designed to elevate Whitworth among the leading Christian universities nationwide, according to the university.

Several programs also were created under Taylor’s leadership, university officials said, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Continuing Studies, an honors program and the institution’s first professional doctoral programs.

Whitworth has made more than $110 million in infrastructure improvements during Taylor’s presidency. Whitworth’s endowment has increased from $80 million to $185 million over that span.

The university said Taylor led Whitworth’s largest comprehensive fundraising campaign, which created eight endowed faculty positions and centers.

In addition, the school’s number of international and minority students has doubled.

Whitworth’s international student population reached as high as 109 in 2019, up from 56 in 2010, before decreasing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of minority students has grown from 309 in 2010 to 734 in fall 2020, according to the university.

Julie Taylor has served as special assistant to Whitworth’s Board of Trustees since 2010, working primarily within institutional advancement on donor and alumni relations, the university said.

She also serves as adviser to the Whitworth University Student Ambassadors and Whitworth Women’s Leadership Network.

“We are grateful for Beck and Julie’s service over the past 11 years. Their student-centered approach has resulted in new programs such as a student ambassador program and expanded co-curricular opportunities,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement. “The university has seen enormous success in providing a challenging academic environment for students while also preparing them for vocations of service in the world.”

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