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Students pack Vines Center for first convocation of semester

August 20, 2008 : Mitzi Bible

The largest-ever incoming class at Liberty University (now surpassing 3,700) meant standing room only for the first convocation service of the fall 2008 semester Wednesday morning.

Campus pastor Johnnie Moore announced that, for the first time, they had outgrown the Vines Center, where three convocation services are held each week. About 600 students had to watch a video simulcast of the service in the nearby DeMoss Learning Center. The service was also shown in Thomas Road Baptist Church for all faculty and staff members with offices in Campus North and for School of Law and Seminary students.

After a praise and worship time led by the Campus Praise Band, Moore led the crowd in prayer and Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. welcomed students to a new school year. Falwell spoke on the many improvements made over the summer “so that we do a better job in cultivating the body, mind and spirit of our students.”

Those improvements included establishing a new office to minister to commuter students.

“We now have about 43 percent of our 11,300 students living off campus. That means we have more students living off campus now than we had for our entire student body at the start of this decade.”

Falwell noted several improvements made to enhance academics, including a renovation of the third floor of DeMoss Learning Center for added library space, new labs for the School of Engineering and the new Towns Lecture Hall at the B.R. Lakin School of Religion.

He recognized leaders of the construction projects throughout campus for “pulling off the impossible” in having several of the projects completed by the start of the school year.

Falwell also introduced a new initiative, “Ultimate LU,” to allow more students to get involved in activities at Liberty. “My father’s philosophy in building Liberty was to use athletics and music because he believed those were the two universal languages all young people understood.”

Now, Falwell Jr. said, “We’ve grown so much that only a small percentage of our students are able to participate in intercollegiate athletics. So in order to broaden it so that there’s activities and athletics for everybody, we’re expanding our intramural program, our club sports program, and we’re surveying students to see what activities you want to see added at Liberty.”

He spoke about the opportunities available on Liberty Mountain, with new hiking and biking trails and the highly anticipated new Snowflex ski slope, an artificial ski slope that would allow students to ski, snowboard and go tubing even in the warmer months. That project is expected to be completed by start of 2009.

A promotional video on Ultimate LU was shown, with images of the sports and recreational activities Liberty offers, or will soon offer, including everything from paintball and ice skating to mountain biking, wakeboarding and whitewater rafting.

For more on Ultimate LU and to view the video, go to www.ultimatelu.com.

LU co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns gave the first convocation speech of the semester, on “God Has a Plan for Your Life,” instructing students to yield to God’s call on their lives.

Convocation services are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning in the Vines Center and feature a praise and worship time and well-known speakers who address a wide range of issues from a Christian perspective.

Moore said this year’s lineup includes some of the world’s most admirable Christian leaders.

“Speakers this fall include evangelists Tony Nolan and David Nasser, and best-selling authors like John Maxwell, Jerry Jenkins and Angela Thomas,” he said. “We will hear from the president of the Family Research Council (and LU alumnus) Tony Perkins, historian David Barton, and relationships experts like John Trent and Gary Chapman. We’ll hear from the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Samuel Rodriquez, and the former Iraqi Missionary Carrie MacDonall.” (Click here for the schedule.)

Moore said these services are part of the philosophical core of Liberty and provide a unique environment not often found on a college campus.

“Where else in the world are so many students, so consistently gathered to focus on Christ and to ask him for their mission for life? Where else do so many thousands begin every week in worship and prayer?”