LU receives $5 million gift, names School of Divinity for longtime supporters
|Left to right: Harold Rawlings, Herb Rawlings, President Jerry Falwell, Carrol Rawlings, and George Rawlings.|
Just as Liberty University President Jerry Falwell was about to go on stage to introduce the Rawlings family — longtime friends and supporters of the university — to the student body at Convocation on Nov. 4, his guests handed him an envelope. Inside was a gift of $5 million.
The Rawlings brothers, Herb, Harold, Carrol, and George, had not been to campus in many years, but their family has been strong supporters of Liberty over the years, contributing greatly to the fulfillment of its vision to become a world-class Christian university.
The surprise gift reflects their continued belief in Liberty’s mission.
“They believe in you, and they believe in this school,” Falwell told the student body in Convocation, noting that generous support is what helps keep Liberty’s tuition among the lowest for private institutions.
Later in the day Wednesday, Falwell announced that Liberty’s School of Divinity has been named the Rawlings School of Divinity, in honor of the family.
Falwell explained that the father of the four brothers, the late Dr. John Rawlings, was a mentor to his own father, the late Jerry Falwell, Sr., Liberty’s founder.
“The Rawlings School of Divinity couldn’t be a more fitting name, given your father’s mentorship to my father and the years of support from your family,” Falwell told them. “John Rawlings was a mentor all the way through my father’s career, from college until his death. Your family has played such an important role in what has happened here, and this is a way to honor our roots.”
During a private meeting, the family viewed a presentation of the building plans for the new home of the Rawlings School of Divinity. The university broke ground on the Freedom Tower project in August, which will be a part of the Rawlings School of Divinity. The 275-foot tower and the two-and-half-story building around its base are set to open in Spring 2017.
|Dr. John Rawlings, left, is pictured with Dr. Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1979.|
Dr. John Rawlings was the president of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo., where Jerry Falwell, Sr. attended college in the early 1950s. Dr. Rawlings served as a pastor for over 70 years, including many years as senior pastor at Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was an adviser to Jerry Falwell, Sr. in his ministry and in the establishment of Liberty University and preached often in Lynchburg over the decades. Dr. Rawlings served in his later years on the Liberty University Board of Trustees. He died at age 99 in 2013. Under John Rawlings’ oversight, his family launched The Rawlings Foundation in 1995, helping to fund youth camp facilities and Bible Institute campuses around the world.
Liberty announced in March that the undergraduate School of Religion was joining Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary to form the new School of Divinity. With both programs experiencing continual growth — approaching a total of 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students studying on campus and online — the decision resulted in the world’s largest accredited school for religious studies and ministerial training.
Ed Hindson, dean of the School of Divinity, explained that the Freedom Tower project will place the school at the focal point of campus.
“We are thrilled that the Rawlings School of Divinity will be placed in the center of the academic hub of the university,” he said. “This significant location underscores Liberty’s historic commitment to the Christian faith as the core of our institution as we continue to build for the 21st century.”
Speaking on behalf of the Rawlings family, Harold Rawlings, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a preacher and lectures in churches, institutions, conferences, and seminars worldwide, said the family was “honored beyond words” that Liberty would name the School of Divinity in memory of their father.
“It speaks volumes about his influence, because he has not only influenced his family, but he has influenced families throughout the world through his ministry and through the Rawlings Foundation,” he said. “It speaks volumes about his influence at Liberty as well. He loved being here.”