After treating incoming students to a cookout in the concourse of Williams Stadium before Friday night’s annual President’s Kickoff, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell and his wife, Becki, took the Ice Bucket Challenge in support of the ALS Association.
“Becki and I were challenged by (women’s soccer assistant coach) Laura Armstrong in the last 24 hours, so we want to do our part,” President Falwell said.
Two members of Liberty’s cheerleading squad stood on the shoulders of teammates with large buckets of cold water and proceeded to pour them onto the Falwells’ heads, to the cheers of the approximately 4,200 incoming freshmen and transfer students in attendance.
President Falwell then made a surprise challenge to the Class of 2018, inviting students to take part in the fundraising effort and spraying many in the crowd with water from a fire hose.
“We just didn’t want you to ever forget your first day, your first big event at Liberty,” he said. “I think that’s one you’ll remember. I know I will.”
Falwell said the university is making a generous donation to the organization.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has touched the lives of Liberty faculty and administrators lately. Sharon Schwartz, the wife of School of Communications professor Stuart Schwartz, died in January from the condition.
“Ed Dobson, who’s one of our most popular founding deans here at Liberty, has ALS,” Falwell said. “It’s a good cause and something that Liberty students would love to support and it’s a good thing for us to do.”
Prior to dousing incoming Liberty students, Falwell and several representatives of Liberty’s Athletics Department helped to fan the Flames in their support of the university’s 20 NCAA Division I programs throughout the school year.
Falwell used a Gatling Gun to fire red Flames T-shirts into the crowd before welcoming them to the world’s largest Christian university, setting the stage for what promises to be “the best four years of your lives.”
He described some of the ongoing improvements made to enhance the collegiate experience.
“We’ve been working all summer to create the best campus atmosphere possible and to make Liberty a world class Christian university academically … spiritually … and athletically,” Falwell said. “I hope you’re excited about some of the improvements we’ve made this summer, to the (Reber-Thomas Dining Hall) and to the LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center. We really are committed to making this a world-class university because you are world-class students, the best students in the world. We are honored to have you here and we want to make this the best experience of your life.”
Liberty volleyball coach Shane Pinder gave the opening prayer before emcee Alan York, “the voice of the Flames,” introduced Falwell. After a performance by the Liberty cheerleaders, the Liberty Marching Band performed the Flames’ Fight Song and York introduced Liberty Athletic Director Jeff Barber, baseball coach Jim Toman, and football coach Turner Gill, who set the stage for the team’s evening practice from 7:20 to 9:20 p.m., and invited students back for Saturday night’s Flames Fan Fest. Gates will open at 6 p.m. before the football team holds a full scrimmage at 7 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet in the Williams Stadium concourse.
President’s Kickoff was the largest event of Welcome Week. It opened on Tuesday with International Student Arrival Day followed by Student Tours on Wednesday, Orientation on Thursday, and a Freshman Convocation on Friday in the sanctuary of Thomas Road Baptist Church. It continues Saturday with a tubing trip on the James River (registration is full) organized through Student Activities, which is also sponsoring a 1 p.m. outing over Liberty Mountain to Camp Hydaway for mountain bike and zipline rides; a 2 p.m. Scavenger Hunt starting in the LaHaye Event Space, near the main entrance to the expanded LaHaye Student Union; and an outdoor movie night at 9 p.m.