May 18, 2007
Students and alumni remember Falwell
by Joanne Tang and Jared Pierce
Sadness came over the Liberty campus on Tuesday as news of Chancellor Jerry Falwell’s death rocked the university. Students prayed with each other, cried and offered each other hugs and words of encouragement. For many, Falwell was a figure they came to know through various stories passed by word-of-mouth, convocation services, and brief glimpses of the famous black GMC Denali. For those who knew Falwell personally, he was a man of love, kindness, commanding presence and wisdom.
“I was born and raised in Lynchburg and have gone to (Thomas Road Baptist Church) my entire life,” said 2005 Liberty graduate MarLiesa Grama. Grama’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. “Dr. Falwell insisted that the pastors get together in his office and pray for my mom,” Grama said. “We went into his office one Sunday after church, and he prayed for her healing.”
Grama’s mother went into remission, and Grama said one day while she was working at an ice cream parlor, Falwell walked in with a large group of colleagues. She waited on their table.
“The first thing he said was, ‘MarLiesa, how is your mother?’” she said.
Glauco Lima, a student from Brazil and ad manager for the Liberty Champion, said he was in the newspaper office when he heard the news. “We knew he had died, but we had that really small hope at the bottom of our hearts that the official report would come saying that he was still alive,” he said. “I believed I was going to walk across the stage next year, get my diploma and shake the hand of the man that changed my life.”
Pamela Walck, who is currently a reporter with the Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., graduated from Liberty in 1994. As the editor of the Liberty Champion, she met with Falwell before the publication of each paper to get approval.
“When I met with Falwell, he was very lenient (about what went in the paper). When he wasn’t there, other people had to sign off on it in his place. They were not as lenient,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t know he wanted to be a journalist. He always had a soft spot in his heart for the campus paper.”
Associate Dean of the Center for Multicultural Enrichment Daveta Saunders arrived at Liberty in 2000. She described Falwell as “someone with dynamic faith.”
“People have visions and ideas, but don’t work (to achieve them),” she said. She said Falwell was different, and she valued that he always stood “on foundations of the Bible.”
Center4ME Dean Melany Pearl called him a “consummate leader.”
“He inspires in people to take on the vision,” she said.
“His legacy can be continued through us, his ‘kids,’” said Grama.