Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mom recognized for her enduring spirit in trials

Parent and Family Connections Office honors Donna Edwards with Outstanding Parent Award

Liberty University held its third annual family weekend dinner at 6 p.m., Oct. 28, where freshman Austin Edwards’ mother, Donna, was honored with the Outstanding Parent Award.

Strength in hard times — Donna Edwards, (left), mother of Austin Edwards (right), was named Parent of the Year, and is shown here with Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Hine. Photo credit: Stephanie Marshall

The evening opened with songs from Sounds of Liberty, followed by a welcome from the Director of Parent and Family Connections Theresa Dunbar and prayer by Campus Pastor Chris Deitsch. Following the prayer, families enjoyed a buffet style dinner of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cooked carrots, salad, bread and cobbler for dessert. The evening closed with the reading of the winning Outstanding Parent Award Essay and the handing out of door prizes.

Dunbar said the idea to give away an Outstanding Parent Award originated from a visit to Virginia Tech.

“Vice President Hine had been to Virginia Tech a few years ago where they presented this type of award at their parent weekend. We felt it would be a great event to include in our family weekend activities. We did our research on it and came up with our version of the contest. The idea has proven to be successful thus far,” Dunbar said.

For three years, Liberty University has given undergraduate students a chance to honor their parents by entering an essay contest in which they write why their parents are deserving of an Outstanding Parent Award. One hundred and twenty five essays were submitted this year and a panel of five judges picked the winner.

“Austin’s essay really stood out from the others for a couple of reasons,” Dunbar said. “One reason was simply because of how well-worded the essay was, and another was because Austin focused on the attributes of his mother and did not dwell on himself.”

Austin Edwards, a freshman at Liberty, wrote in his essay that both of his parents had instilled in him values that would leave a legacy.

“Strength, generosity, courage, beauty, perseverance, joy and integrity. These attributes are seldom found in anyone. Both of my parents have personified all of these qualities and so many more,” Edwards said.

Both of Edwards’ parents attended Liberty, where they met and fell in love, according to Edwards.

Even after her husband’s death in 2009 due to leukemia, Donna Edwards has led her family to trust in God’s plan and direction, which, according to Austin Edwards, is why she is such an Outstanding Parent.

“If it weren’t for the sacrifices and financial support of parents, then I know Liberty University would not be the large, unique university that it is,” Dunbar said. “The parents who support their children are a confirmation to me that God is at work, and I consider it an honor to be able to be a part of this event.”

Beatrice Wright, one of the guests at the dinner, is one of many parents who sacrifices for and supports her child attending Liberty.

“It’s hard for parents to let go and have to separate from their child when they send them off to college,” Wright said. “However, knowing they are in an environment at Liberty where people really do care makes that transition so much easier.”

For more information about family weekend or on how to enter the Outstanding Parent Award essay competition for next fall, contact Theresa Dunbar at the Parent and Family Connections Office at 434-582-2339.

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