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Graduate School of Business named for longtime supporters

October 24, 2011 : By Mitzi Bible/Liberty University News Service

Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced today that Liberty University is naming its Graduate School of Business the A.W. and Lois Overton Graduate School of Business, after longtime supporters who played a significant role in Liberty’s history.

Alton Woodley (“A.W.”) Overton was a successful businessman who supported Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, in his mission to build a world-class Christian university. In the 1940s and 1950s, his chain of grocery stores was one of the largest independent chains in Virginia. He was also successful in the real estate business.

Alton Woodley ("A.W.") and Lois H. Overton

A.W. Overton traveled from Chesapeake, Va., once a month to attend services at Thomas Road Baptist Church and became friends with Dr. Jerry Falwell. He was a consistent financial supporter over the years.

A.W. died in 2003 at the age of 97; Lois died in 1999.

“They are part of the miracle stories that kept this school going through some tough times,” Chancellor Falwell said.

He said honoring the family in a special way was something his father was working on before he passed.

Several members of the Overton family were present at Monday’s convocation to accept the honor. The Overtons have had three grandchildren and one great-grandson graduate from Liberty.

A son, Bill, made regular trips with his father to TRBC and Liberty over the years.

“It’s amazing to see what’s taken place,” he told students. “I hope each of you realize you are part of a blessing. … Jerry Falwell didn’t just snap his fingers and all of this became a reality. It was a part of a persevering faith. He recognized that God was able to do beyond and above what we ever imagined. The second element was a work ethic; (he was) determined not to quit, not to give up.”

Scott Hicks, interim dean of the School of Business, said the graduate school is honored to carry the Overton name.

Members of A.W. Overton's family were present at Monday's convocation. Pictured here with Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. (left) are, front row, left to right: Bill Overton (son) and his wife, Norma; great-granddaughter Mandy Overton; back row: grandson Scott Overton; Jeff and Gaye Benson (granddaughter). The Bensons are both Liberty alumni.

“To listen to the family, he (A.W.) put a good hard work ethic into everything he’s done, and the Lord’s blessed him and he’s been able to bless Liberty, which has impacted thousands of students,” Hicks said. “It’s refreshing to have someone that fits that mold perfectly to put their name on the school and make that investment into the school.”

Liberty offers four graduate degrees in business: a Master of Business Administration (36 hours); Master of Arts in Management and Leadership; Master of Business Administration (45 hours, with 11 specializations); and a Master of Science in Accounting, with several classes offered through Liberty University Online. Liberty has offered the MBA program online for many years, but launched the residential program this semester.

There are currently 4,500 students studying in Liberty’s graduate business programs.