The Daniel House: Celebrating Over 30 Years

Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.
Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.

The Daniel House “changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty.” –Dr. Marlene Rikard

Just over thirty years ago, Samford University purchased a Victorian home in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.  This pivotal real estate transaction, made possible by the Daniel Foundation, provided exponential travel and cultural learning opportunities for generations of students.  Located in the heart of London, the house serves as a window to the world.  Students can walk out the door and explore the gardens at Kensington Palace, attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey or meander through remains of the Parthenon at the British Museum.  During a weekend in London they can take a train to Paris, or a short flight to Morocco, Dublin, or Milan. It’s location allows for an enormous amount of options that serve, in the words of Dr. Stephen Todd, as “a living laboratory – a museum that they get to live in and explore for days and weeks on end, seeing the actual places and architecture, tasting the food, and meeting the people as they walk the ancient paths.”

Originally called Samford’s London Study Centre, the Daniel House opened in 1984. Over the years, Samford professors made it into a home – some with hammers and nails and others with home cooked meals shared in the community kitchen. This 130-year-old Victorian home has been a beloved landmark for the Samford family and the site of fun student memories as well as academic achievements. The first professors to live in the Daniel House braved cold nights with no heat and took on construction projects to make the house livable for students. To commemorate this special anniversary, a few professors who shaped the Daniel House that students know and love shared their personal memories.

Samford's London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984
Samford’s London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984

Samford’s longtime theatre director, Harold Hunt, was in the first group of professors to live in the Daniel House.

Harold Hunt: [My wife] Barbara and I were chosen to go and start the program for that first semester . . . Tom [Corts] and [his wife] Marla, and Ben Brown and [his wife] Francis, and [Ben] Harrison and his wife, those three couples [also] went.

He went on to explain that it was not easy to convince students to come to this new place.

Harold Hunt: We like to have never gotten a group of students to go. It was like shaking the trees . . . . They didn’t want to leave Samford. Even for several years, [they would say] “I don’t want to leave my fraternity [or] I don’t want to leave this.” 

When they got there, he explained, there was still more work to be done.

Harold Hunt: We had to walk across a plank to get into the building. It was – I’ll give you my word – chaos . . . . There were people working [but] nothing had been finished . . . this was Monday morning before the students were coming Wednesday . . . . [Once the students arrived] they were constantly having to move from one room to another [because] it [was] still being worked on.

All and all, though, Hunt’s group ended up having a wonderful time.

Harold Hunt: It was a wild semester, but I wouldn’t take anything back . . . and the students felt the same way . . . . It was an interesting group of people, but we loved them all, we really did, and it was just a good experience for us.

L:  The First Group of Samford Students to Study Abroad in London                                                      R:  Dr. and Mrs. Hunt at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard, a former History professor, focused on the cultural benefits Samford students receive through their time at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard: It’s the most cosmopolitan city in the world. I mean the entire empire has gone to London. It was a way that you could take sheltered students…and introduce them to that wider world and from there they might go on out to other places, other opportunities. And so it was something that Tom Corts did that changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty. Tom was the one who was the inspiration behind it. The Daniel Foundation provided the money, and they wanted to be anonymous. And that’s why it was just called the London Study Center for so long . . . It has become a remarkable program for the university.

As the years progressed, more and more students began to come, and a new batch of professors came with them.  As Karen Joines of the Religion Department explained, the house itself was always a work in progress.

Karen Joines: I did a lot of work. I painted the balusters for the handrail, sanded down the handrail; I hid a lot of the electrical cords with caulk and painted over it. The fire chief [gave me permission to] redo the door [to the] reading room so it would be more attractive . . . . I did some carpentry on that and the door at the very top of the stairs . . . . On occasion, I ran into Dr. Corts with a saw in hand.  

Samford’s faculty made the Victorian house in London into a home away from home where students can enjoy a unique experience of living and learning alongside their peers and professors – under the same roof, at the same breakfast table.  International travel can seem daunting and always out of reach, but the Daniel House makes this an attainable goal for many by providing an accessible platform for students to explore other cultures.  After thirty years, Samford students know they will never be ‘tired of London.’

Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant.
Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant. Prints are available for sale here at this link to the Samford University Alumni Association website.

Adapted from:

Department of Classics International Travel Pamphlet, Dr. Stephen Todd.

Samford University Entre Nous 1985.

The Daniel House in London, Student Handbook, Samford University.

Oral History Interview with Harold Hunt.

Oral History Interview with Karen Joines.

Oral History Interview with Marlene Rikard.

Mysterious Lovers Call

Old Main in 1925
Old Main on the East Lake campus in 1925

While many couples choose Samford’s Reid Chapel for their wedding, not many would think of Samford Hall. Almost every weekend there are weddings in Reid Chapel, but while Howard College was in East Lake, students did not usually wed on campus. But on Valentine’s Day in 1925, a mysterious couple appeared at the administration offices in Old Main on the East Lake campus requesting such a venue. The February 18, 1925 Crimson recounts the story:

Mysterious Lovers Call At Dean’s Office

Cupid Wins as Unknown Couple Weds in Main Building Valentine’s Day

 An event, the likes of which never occurred before in the Administration building during its thirty-eight years came to pass Saturday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock in the Dean’s office. Yes, the very office where hundreds of knowledge-seeking students have enrolled . . . and where innumerable students have discussed and solved their problems of college life; the office that has known naught but formal discourse and cold business, was flooded with romance without warning when a pair of “victims of the season” were joined in happy wedlock inside its walls.

The couple were not connected in any way with the college, however, and gave their names as Miss Mary Alice Hartley and Mr. Thomas Nathaniel Graves. The groom gave his address as 8229 Eighty-Second Street, East Lake. The parents and address of the bride are not known.

Witnesses of the scene stated that the couple came [to] campus…cooing like a pair of turtledoves in springtime. Upon reaching the main building, they immediately entered through the front entrance, made way to the office, and calmly stated that they wished to get married and inquired if they could get a minister to perform the required ceremony, witnesses confirmed.

It being 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon, Professor Burns, the Dean, was not in–Miss Moody and Miss Kendra, student secretaries, being the only ones present. However, after recovering from the unusual request and being convinced that the couple were not applicants for registration, Miss Moody complied and telephoned the Divinity Club for aid.

Responding to the call, several student-preachers made haste to the rescue and found it to be no joke. Accordingly, J.D. Wyatt, ministerial student at Howard–being the oldest of the preachers present–relieved the situation, (leaving out the phrase “to obey,” . . . so witnesses asserted.)

The bride wore a blue coat-suit, trimmed in fur to match.  She appeared to be about 18. The groom was considerably older, probably 30, and wore a business man’s attire.

After appropriate caresses and exercises, the mysterious lovers departed from the Dean’s office chewing their gum nonchalantly. We know neither from whence they cometh, nor whither they goeth.

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, February 18, 1925.