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Thomas Corts service slated Feb. 8

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A memorial service for Thomas E. Corts, president emeritus of Samford University who died Feb. 4 of an apparent heart attack, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, in the Leslie Stephen Wright Center Concert Hall on the university’s Birmingham, Ala., campus.

Corts, who was 67, led the Baptist-affiliated university for 23 years until his retirement in 2006.

He personally signed and awarded diplomas to more than 17,000 Samford graduates during his tenure. At the time of his retirement, an estimated two-thirds of Samford’s living alumni had graduated during his presidency.

Corts had returned to his Birmingham home in January from Washington, D.C., after serving in President Bush’s administration as coordinator of The President’s Initiative to Expand Education, focusing on early childhood education programs worldwide, and subsequently as coordinator of basic education in the State Department’s Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance, a program which provided aid to 4 million schoolchildren in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Liberia, Mali and Yemen.

After retiring from Samford, he had served briefly as interim chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system and had become executive director of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities (IABCU) when he was selected to join the Bush administration in 2007.

Corts also served as chairman of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and as president of SACS and the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The Saturday prior to his death, Corts had attended Samford’s basketball game against Davidson College, the first-ever sellout crowd for the two-year-old Thomas E. and Marla H. Corts Arena in Samford’s Pete Hanna Center.

“There is no way to measure the impact of Tom Corts’ life and ministry on this university and the thousands of lives whom he touched,” said Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, who succeeded Corts at Samford in 2006. “We have all lost a great friend.”

More than 30 buildings were constructed during Corts’ tenure and Samford’s endowment grew from $8 million to $258 million by the time of his retirement.

Born in Terre Haute, Ind., Corts grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio. He graduated from Georgetown (Ky.) College and held master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University. After working as an administrator at Georgetown, he was named president of Wingate College in North Carolina in 1974, serving there nine years until his election as president of Samford.

Corts was one of six brothers, five of whom had ministry-related careers. Two preceded him in death, Mark Corts, longtime pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., in August 2006 and Phil, a lawyer, in 1998. John Corts retired in 2001 as president and chief operating officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Paul Corts was elected president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities in May 2006 after four years as the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for administration; he also is a former president of Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and Wingate University in North Carolina. David Corts, of Phoenix, Ariz., retired as a consultant for the Church Development Fund, Inc., in 2007 and formerly was a pastor in a career spanning 47 years. A sister, Naomi Corts White, is a retired middle school science teacher now living in Anderson, S.C.

Thomas Corts is survived by his wife of 44 years, Marla; two married daughters; a married son and six grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial gifts be made to the Corts Scholarship Fund, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229, or Eddie Gibson International Ministries, P.O. Box 610188, Birmingham, AL 35261.

On Sunday, the family will receive guests following the memorial service. Burial will be in a private service for family members only.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalsotn, including sections of a news story on Samford University’s website (www.samford.edu).

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