In January 1971, Dr. Jerry Falwell challenged his congregation at Thomas Road Baptist Church to establish a Christian college with the singular purpose of Training Champions for Christ.
From the outset, the vision was to create a world-class university for evangelical Christians that offered academic excellence, NCAA Division I athletics, and the same quality programs and facilities found at any major university. Graduates would not only be equipped to excel in their field, but also inspired to live out the Gospel in every aspect of life.
In the fall of 1971, Lynchburg Baptist College welcomed its inaugural class.
It began with 154 students and four full-time faculty members. With classes held all across the city and students housed in makeshift residence halls, the school’s early days are remembered as a time of humble dependence on God’s faithful provision. Liberty’s unique character was evident from the beginning, deriving from the school’s roots in the Christian faith and a respect for America’s founding principles. It was in this spirit that in 1975 the school’s name was changed to Liberty Baptist College, and red, white, and blue were adopted as the official colors.
Liberty’s uniqueness spurred swift growth. By 1980, the university had achieved institutional accreditation, and in 1985, pioneered distance learning, which developed into what has become the standard format in online education. Over the next 20 years, Liberty grew into a nationally recognized liberal arts university with hundreds of programs offered both residentially and online.
With the passing of Liberty’s founder in 2007, leadership of the university was entrusted to his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. Working closely with other men and women inspired by the school’s mission and committed to seeing it realized, President Falwell led Liberty into a new era of growth and achievement.
Today, Liberty is the fifth largest university in the nation and the largest Christian university in the world. With 17 schools and colleges, Liberty is part of an exclusive list of institutions that offer an ABA-accredited law school, an engineering and computational sciences school with ABET-accredited programs, a cinematic arts program, an aviation program, a seminary, and a medical school.
Amid dramatic growth in both residential and online enrollment, as well as the development of state-of-the-art academic and athletic facilities, Liberty has continued to build its financial strength without subsidies from taxpayers. Garnering national attention for its business model, Liberty has been recognized by leading credit-rating agencies for its financial stability, and in December 2012, became the first evangelical Christian university to surpass $1 billion in net assets.
Significantly, Liberty has achieved these milestones without compromising its Christian heritage and commitment to the biblical worldview.
The mission of Liberty University has not changed since that fall in 1971 when a small group of students gathered in Lynchburg, Va., to begin their college careers. Whether in law, science, medicine, the arts — no matter the discipline — Liberty remains resolutely committed to impacting the world by Training Champions for Christ.
View the SELAH Yearbook past editions and learn more about Liberty's history.