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Liberty University honored its largest-ever graduating class — 8,650 students — at 2010 Commencement on Saturday, May 15. After a week filled with rain, thunderstorms and high humidity, sunny skies greeted the graduates as an estimated 28,000 filled Arthur L. Williams Stadium, many of them in temporary seating due to ongoing construction.
“Today marks the end of another wonderful year of great blessings here at Liberty University,” said Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.
About 4,400 students walked in the ceremony, a significant jump from last year when 2,300 graduates were present.
Of this year’s graduates, 24 percent were residential students, and 76 percent received their degrees from Liberty University Online. They received degrees and certifications from the following areas: aeronautics (22), arts and sciences (2,192), business (1,273), communication (279), engineering and computational science (81), education (1,050), government (287), law (57), religion (886), seminary (1,479), Willmington School of the Bible (20), Liberty Home Bible Institute (58), Institute of Biblical Studies (20) and Liberty University Online Academy (53).
Falwell noted that many of his father’s visions, those of LU’s founder, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, have been met this year, including having 50,000 students enrolled on campus and through Liberty University Online. He also spoke about new facilities that have been built in recent years and how Liberty’s endowment continues to grow.
“The vision for Liberty was not to create just another Bible school, but instead to build for conservative evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is for Catholic young people or what Brigham Young is for Mormon youth,” Falwell said. “We are thankful to God that the dream is now being realized.”
Falwell recognized his father with the unveiling of a monument that commemorates the Class of 2010 and his father’s last year as chancellor — this year’s graduating class were freshmen when Dr. Falwell died in 2007. The monument, a gift from the Class of 2010, tells the story of Dr. Falwell and includes an early picture from the top of Liberty Mountain showing a view of what would become Liberty University. The monument will be placed on Liberty Mountain overlooking campus.
“It feels like a small part of dad is leaving with you,” Falwell told the graduates. “We will miss hearing from students about how he encouraged them and befriended them or gave them a scholarship.”
Glenn Beck delivers keynote address
After receiving an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, Glenn Beck, one of America’s leading radio and TV personalities on FOX News, became choked up at the honor.
“As a man who was never able to go to college — I’m the first in my family that went; I went for one semester; I couldn’t afford more than that — I am humbly honored.”
Beck said it was courageous for Liberty to invite him and that being here was not an endorsement of his Mormon faith.
He said accepting the invite to speak is “an endorsement of your faith. This is a time when we all need to come together. We may have differences, but we need to find those things that unite us.”
Beck told the graduates that they must have faith and courage to overcome challenges that face the world today, such as high unemployment and the weak dollar.
“Turn to God and live,” he said. “Life is only what you make of it. Nothing more, nothing less. … God is the truth. The truth will consume everything that is not true. … The world is full of lies.”
Beck urged graduates not to underestimate the power of the atonement. When he was 13, his mother took her life. He said he nearly followed in her footsteps.
“As a man who needed the atonement … I read the promise. He will carry your burdens. I made Him a promise. You keep your word and I will keep mine,” he said. “He will never break his promise, and now it’s all up to me. [The atonement] is the most powerful thing you will ever encounter.”
In seeking to give advice to the Class of 2010, Beck turned to his journal and read excerpts that he had originally written to tell his daughter, but hadn’t yet.
“Your father loves you and so does your heavenly Father. … As long as we have today, we can change the world. … Marry for love, marry for laughs, but mostly importantly as my wife Tania taught me, marry for God. Without God, life’s storms are too strong to withstand. … Life is hard, and then it gets harder. Then you die. But every second of life is worth it. … Always forgive, but don’t forget so much that you put yourself in the same situation. … Freedom and rights are given to man by God, they are his, we are the guardians. … Read the Scriptures every day — they are alive. He speaks to you through them.”
Falwell said Liberty invited Beck because this generation’s “ability to give back to those in need is in jeopardy.”
“If your generation does not work to restore this country to its founding ideals, it is my firm belief that you will not enjoy the same economic opportunities that my generation enjoyed,” Falwell said in his introduction of Beck. “If the government takes the fruits of your labors, how can you obey Jesus’ commandments to help the poor, to support your churches or to give to missionaries who are spreading the Gospel around the world?”
Falwell said Beck has risen to prominence at a crucial time in American history.
“Glenn Beck’s clarion call is reminding America of its own history and warning its citizens of how easily freedom and prosperity can fall prey to tyranny and socialism.”
Paige Patterson addresses graduates
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, who was the keynote speaker at Friday’s baccalaureate service, also spoke to the Class of 2010.
Patterson, a longtime friend of Falwell, Sr., said Falwell set a great example of a life given to Christ.
“It is marvelous to be in the house that Falwell built and is still building,” he said of his longtime friend Falwell, Sr.
Patterson spoke to graduates about Isaiah, who told of a birth of a child who would be God in flesh 700 years before Jesus was born.
“The little baby that Mary held in her arms was the eternal God in human flesh. He had no beginning, He has no ending and He became a man to die on the cross for us.”
Oldest, youngest and a family of graduates
During Saturday’s Commencement, Falwell recognized the youngest and oldest graduates. Rachael Powell, 18, from Ohio earned a B.S. in Accounting through LU Online; Roland Malone, 78, from Roanoke, Va., received his master’s in evangelism and church planting.
Falwell also recognized Kelly Day Lesley, who is the eighth child of Joseph and Geraldine Day of Smyrna, N.Y., to graduate from Liberty. The family connections don’t stop there — three of the couple’s son-in-laws are graduates and two members of the family are full-time employees at Liberty. And, lastly, one of Mr. and Mrs. Day’s grandsons is enrolled at LU, and another will start classes in the fall.
“Joseph and Geraldine Day believed in Liberty University in 1981 when they sent their first daughter to college,” Falwell said, “and have continued to entrust their children to this university.”