Though Commencement may seem like an ever-growing sea of faces, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. always takes the time to hear the numerous graduation stories that come across his desk, and even share a few of them during his Commencement speech. Here are some of those notable stories from Commencement 2012.
Craig Daliessio walked in Liberty University’s Commencement after facing great opposition, including three-and-a-half years of homelessness, en route to completing his degree 26 years after beginning as a residential student.
Daliessio long dreamed about completing his degree with Liberty, and even attended here for a year in the mid 1980s and again
a decade later. When the economy crashed in 2008, he soon found himself unable to afford a home.
In August 2009, Daliessio resurrected his dream and enrolled with Liberty University Online. He lived in his car, working odd jobs whenever he could, and studied wherever he could — at the library, park, or a restaurant with Wi-Fi.
Now, having completed his religion degree, Daliessio hopes to use his story to inspire others. Since January he has been able
to afford a roof over his head and recently started a new job. He plans to continue his education with Liberty and earn a master’s degree.
Read the full story here.
Following the Commencement exercises, Will Scheren hit the slopes at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, donning his full graduation regalia — cap, gown, and hood — with a snowboard to boot.
The quick ride down the mountain was a testament to what that day was for Scheren: a celebration of his achievements and all that Liberty has meant to him, from beginning his undergraduate studies in business in 2004 to graduating with a Master of Business Administration in May.
Scheren is head coach of Liberty’s ski and snowboard team and assistant manager of Snowflex.
“It was a great Commencement ceremony, we enjoyed ourselves while we were there. We felt relaxed and comfortable. The
ceremony itself was great; it was formal and it definitely was appropriate,” he said.
And though he admits he is not sure what is next, Scheren said, “I feel prepared, and I’m not rushing to get anywhere; but I feel
like I’m in a good place. I feel like I’m ready for whatever comes down the pipeline.”
Read the full story here.
Falwell, Jr., was reminded of Liberty’s humble beginnings from Mack Rhoades, Jr., who attended Liberty in 1974 when classes were held at the old Thomas Road Baptist Church site and the land on which Williams Stadium now rests was home to a dairy barn. Rhoades had to leave Liberty after only one year and later returned to obtain his B.S. in 2010, and this year received his M.A. in Human Services.
This year’s oldest graduate, at 77, was Dolores Darrell (B.S., religion) and Liberty’s youngest was Gabrielle Turnquest (B.S., psychology), age 17.
Katherine McInnis began her college journey in 1977 but had to drop out because of financial challenges. She enrolled in Liberty Online as a mother and grandmother and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in multidisciplinary studies, on her 53rd birthday.
In 1998, Kathryn Armstrong broke her back while taking classes at Liberty. She enrolled in Liberty Online to finish her degree, and thanks to a miraculous new surgical technique, walked across the stage at graduation, after years of being confined to a wheelchair, to receive her M.A. in Christian counseling.
Patrick Andrews, who so many have come to fondly know as “the man in the orange shirt,” received his bachelor’s degree in communication studies at 40 years of age, while sporting an orange graduation cap.
Andrews began his studies at Liberty in 1994. During that year he was in a car accident that changed his life forever, putting him in a coma for six weeks and giving him severe head trauma. After the accident, Andrews was only capable of taking a limited number of credit hours per semester, but he never quit, following Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s repeated admonition.
After nearly two decades of perseverance and determination, Andrews is now a Liberty graduate.
Falwell, Jr. somberly honored Ron King at Commencement, who was awarded his doctorate in ministry this year, posthumously. King passed away on Feb. 7 and his wife Sharon King, of Huntsville, Ala., was present at the ceremony. Falwell expressed sorrow for her loss, but encouraged her with the promise that Liberty “is not just your husband’s alma mater, but your extended family.”
Three sisters — Emily Ellenburg (B.S. business, specialization in marketing), Hannah Ellenburg (M.A., theological studies), and Catherine Comfort (M.S., sport management administration) — graduated together from Liberty this year and their fourth sister, Sarah Ellenburg, is a freshman.
Katie Raybould (B.S., social sciences) graduated with two members of her immediate family as well. Her father, Mark, received his M.A. in discipleship leadership, and her sister, Amy, (right) earned an M.A. in management and leadership.