Liberty University’s tagline, Training Champions for Christ since 1971, collectively acknowledges the university’s unique heritage, affirms its uncompromising mission, and echoes Liberty’s commitment to Christian values, which distinguishes it from other schools and universities. These stories below reflect all these pillars of Liberty’s mission.
Liberty University alumni and brothers Rick Gage (’98, M.A. Religion) and Rodney Gage (’88, B.S. Speech Communication) have been impacting lives through ministry across the country, taking to heart the mission of their alma mater, Training Champions for Christ.
Rick Gage leads crusades with Go Tell Ministries, the organization he launched in 1990. Go Tell’s student camps came to Lynchburg starting in 1995 at the invitation of Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., and saw a 15-year run on Liberty Mountain. Next year will mark the 25th year for the camp ministry, which has served thousands of youth every summer.
Before answering the call to ministry, Gage was a football coach and even served as a running backs coach at Liberty from 1984-85. He lives near Atlanta, Ga., with his wife, Lynne, and their two daughters. His daughter Sara is a sophomore at Liberty.
Rodney Gage was a student at Liberty the same time his brother Rick was a football coach. He founded Fellowship of Orlando in 2001, which has since become one of the fastest-growing churches in Central Florida.
He and his wife, Michelle, have three children. The couple recently finished their first book together, titled “ReThink Life: How to Live Different from the Norm.” The book is the centerpiece for a “40 Day ReThink Life Experiment” designed for churches.
Both brothers traveled with their father, evangelist Freddie Gage before starting their own ministries. They said they are thankful for what Liberty and its mission have meant to them and to their respective ministries.
“Those four years (at Liberty) changed my life,” Rodney Gage said. “Those were the greatest four years, as far as for my spiritual life and the development of my character as well as my leadership skills.”
Rick Gage said he wouldn’t be the man he is today, or have the ministry he has today “if it were not for Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. To see the heart that he had for people had a major impact on my life.” (Read the full story.)
Senior Michael Kerr spent his summer touring with one of the top drum and bugle organizations in the world, The Cadets, as a trumpet player.
The group is a 10-time world champion with Drum Corps International, sometimes called “marching music’s major league.”
Kerr, a music performance and teacher licensure major, is the only member of the Liberty University Marching Band to perform with the elite group while a student at Liberty.
The Cadets traveled to 29 competitions in 20 different states over the course of two months. The group practiced 12 hours a day, six hours on performance days, and often had back-to-back performances. (Read the full story.)
Two Liberty University students embarked on a summer-long quest to foster community across the nation, using the photo sharing social media platform Instagram to unite people with a common interest.
Jody Johnston, a senior studying advertising and Ryan Carl, a sophomore marketing student, have merged their business-savvy and passion for people to form Pilgramers, a group that seeks to bring Instagramers together for the purpose of building relationships and having fun in the process.
With Pilgramers, they organize Instameets, which are gatherings of Instagramers in which people are connected and spend the day taking snapshots together and getting to know one another. Destinations are sometimes decided upon spontaneously and Instagramers can suggest where they will take place.
The pair traveled from Virginia to Seattle, down the West Coast, and back, stopping at several cities along the way.
Johnston and Carl have picked up quite a following with their endeavors, attracting more than 140,000 hits on their YouTube video “Stuff Instagramers Say” (that inspired them to form Pilgramers), and their pilgrimage garnered attention from executives at Instagram, who invited them to spend the day with them at their headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., and featured them on the Instagram blog.
Liberty University has helped to repair a city landmark created to honor the men of Lynchburg who served in World War I.
When it was discovered that a bayonet on “The Listening Post” statue (commonly called the “Doughboy”) at the base of Monument Terrace in downtown Lynchburg had been broken off, Neal Askew, Liberty’s Executive Vice President, saw an opportunity to help.
On June 27, Askew presented a check for $2,000 on behalf of the university to cover the repairs.
“We have a great emphasis at Liberty with our military involvement and our military students, so this is another step of showing support of our military forces,” Askew said. (Read the full story.)
“How can I pray for you?”
That question will always come up when you sit down to talk with Dr. Ed Gomes, director of spiritual development for the Liberty Flames football team.
That simple phrase speaks volumes to Gomes’ character. He not only takes his role very seriously, he cares for the individual. And that personal touch has impacted countless lives over the years.
Gomes, entering his 12th season with the Flames, is responsible for setting up chapel services for the team, discipling players, coaches, and other staff, and serves as a liaison between the football program and the Office of Student Affairs.
Prior to being dubbed “Coach Gomes,” he spent five years serving as dean of commuting students (now Commuter Affairs). Gomes explained his previous position led to an opportunity with the football team.
“I was dealing with an athlete, and Coach (Ken) Karcher (former Flames head football coach) said, ‘This is what we need for our football team,’” Gomes said.
In 2000, after prayer and seeking guidance, Gomes accepted the position as full-time chaplain for the Flames.
In his work with the football team, Gomes uses what he calls a “Whole-Person Development” model, which he bases on Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The model seeks to develop every person that comes through the Liberty program in four areas: academic, athletic, social, and spiritual. It has inspired the Luke 2:52 Award, which is presented to the graduating senior who best embodies the program’s mission. The award was first presented in 2006.
In his career, Gomes has had opportunities to see a number of players he worked with advance to the professional level, including Samkon Gado, Mike Brown, Rashad Jennings, and Chris Summers.
Gomes and his family have strong ties to Liberty. He received his bachelor’s degree in youth ministry from Liberty in 1976. While attending Liberty, Gomes was a star point guard for the Flames basketball team where he remains the all-time leader in steals (300) and is fourth in total assists (476). His wife, Ruth, is a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Their children are both graduates of Liberty: Priscilla Bramlett (’05) and Josh Gomes (’08).
Liberty University alumnus Anthony “Tony” Beckles (’06) was promoted to captain at American Eagle in March of this year. At 26, he is currently the youngest captain for the airline.
In 2003-04 Beckles was named the School of Aeronautics’ Pilot of the Year. After graduation, he served as an instructor and university pilot at Liberty before being hired by American Eagle in October 2006.
The promotion was a large feat to accomplish in such a short period of time, sometimes taking up to 10 years depending on demand.
When news of Beckles’ promotion reached Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics, he was not surprised.
“As a student he was tremendously motivated, he was very passionate about aviation. He was not only very committed to being a pilot, but being an excellent pilot,” Young said. “When he was hired by American Eagle I was very pleased for Anthony, but also pleased for American Eagle Airlines, because I was convinced he would be a tremendous asset to them, he’d be a great representative of the airlines and that has proven to be true.”
He added that the SOA has enjoyed success in the hiring of its grads.
“This year we have had seven flight instructors (all SOA grads) hired by the airlines and have several waiting for interviews. The job market is opening up and for the first time in the history of the SOA, the airlines are now approaching us … our reputation is growing stronger.”
The SOA also has a 100-percent hire rate in the two AMTS (aircraft mechanic) classes that have graduated.
Beckles’ family has been connected to Liberty for a long time. His father, Anthony Sr. (’83), was a track and field athlete and later served as vice president of finance. His mother, Bernette (’84), is an adjunct professor of mathematics. (Read the full story.)
Liberty University’s Young Women for America club is now serving as the flagship chapter of a national organization that applies biblical principles to public policy issues. The club held a leadership training session in the spring featuring Liberty alumna Penny Nance (’98), CEO and President of Concerned Women for America (CWA).
Liberty’s chapter is currently training students from other schools and helping them start chapters. The training session brought in women from Oral Roberts University, Cedarville University, and Ave Maria School of Law.
Women of all majors are invited to join Young Women for America at Liberty, which meets every other week. (Read the full story.)
From shooting to editing and postproduction, all stages of production for the upcoming faith-based film, “Finding Faith,” took place in Central Virginia with Lynchburg as its hub. Liberty University was at the heart of the project, a vital source of support for the movie, providing locations, housing, and equipment, as well as a deep talent pool from which the movie has drawn much of its cast, crew, and support staff.
Over 90 percent of the people involved with the film are affiliated with Liberty in some way (alumni, students, faculty and staff, etc.), according to alumnus Jason Campbell (’93), who is the film’s executive producer, and executive director of the Safe Surfin’ Foundation, which is backing the film.
Stephanie Bettcher, a senior at Liberty, landed the role of the film’s title character, Faith Garrett, and several other faces familiar to the Liberty family will be seen on screen as well.
Liberty helped out in many ways, providing a number of campus locations for filming, and Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. allowed the filmmakers to use Liberty’s stateof-the-art camera equipment (purchased for the Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center) free of charge.
“Finding Faith” aims to educate families on the importance of Internet safety through a powerful drama based on the real life story of a girl who was abducted after falling prey to a skillful online predator. It is inspired by the experiences of Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown, who headed one of the nation’s first Internet Crimes Against Children task forces.
The film stars Erik Estrada, a Hollywood legend and activist best known for his role on the 1970s and ’80s television series “CHiPS.”
“Finding Faith” is set to release in early 2013 after a nationwide screening tour beginning at Thomas Road Baptist Church. (Read the full story.)
Dr. Don Fanning, chair of Liberty University’s Department of Global Studies and director of the Center for Global Engagement, had the opportunity to minister to 500 pastors in Cuba this summer.
For Fanning, the trip, which took place May 28-June 1, wasn’t that much of a culture shock as he ministered for 30 years in Latin America. It was, however, his first trip to the island nation, a rare opportunity and one for which he was grateful.
Fanning was granted a religious visa to teach his course on the book of Romans at a pastors’ retreat in central Cuba, as well as at a few churches in Havana, the capital. He converted the textbook he uses to teach Romans at Liberty to Spanish and provided
it for the pastors.
He challenged the pastors to take on the task of increasing Cuba’s evangelical population, which now is about 9 percent, to 50 percent of the country’s population. (Read the full story.)
Since 1971 Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ. Each year, more and more champions cross the stage at Commencement, marking the completion of one journey and the beginning of another. Every champion has a story. Many overcome hardships, make sacrifices, and take risks, choosing each day to endure, knowing the reward is worth the challenge, in this life and in eternity. In the end, champions overcome.
Liberty University’s Marketing Department released the “Journey of Champions” documentary this summer, telling the stories of three such champions from Commencement 2012.
Ron Kennedy, senior vice president for Marketing, said the documentary illustrates the true mission of Liberty University.
“These powerful stories show what a faithful God we serve, and just how exceptional individuals of the Liberty family truly are. The video speaks to who we are as a university — truly committed not just to providing quality education, but an atmosphere of community, to genuinely Train Champions for Christ.”
“Journey of Champions” introduces Kristal Dahlager, William Viriato, and Laura Holmes who each overcame adversity in their academic journey. The video can be viewed at www.liberty.edu/journeyofchampions or on Liberty’s YouTube channel. (Read the full story.)
After a stunning victory in the District 93 Republican primaries, alumnus Matt Krause (’07, Liberty University School of Law) is poised to take a seat in the Texas House of Representatives this January, which would make him the first Liberty law graduate to hold a statewide political office.
A few weeks before the election, polls predicted Krause would bottom out the three-challenger ticket with about 12 percent of the vote. Krause’s aggressive campaign, which knocked on over 5,500 doors, came through however, taking 50.7 percent of the vote on May 29, ousting the incumbent and giving him the GOP nomination.
Krause was a member of the School of Law’s inaugural class, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and third in the class, and was the first recipient of the Spirit of Liberty Award, given to a graduate who demonstrates academic excellence and models Liberty’s mission. (Read the full story.)
Convocation, held three times a week, is North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students, offering them an opportunity to hear from speakers of national influence from every sphere of society. Services are aired on the Liberty Channel and past Convocations can be viewed on www.liberty.edu/streaming and Liberty’s YouTube channel.