As more reports show that Liberty University is standing on solid financial footing and is ready to accommodate more growth, much of that can be credited to the support of its generous donors who want to ensure future generations of Champions for Christ.
Glenn and Rachael Esbenshade have supported the university and its related ministries since the early 1980s, when the campus was small, but the vision was big.
Glenn, a successful Pennsylvania businessman in the agribusiness field and a real estate developer, said he first met Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. when they visited Thomas Road Baptist Church on their way back from Florida in 1982.
“After the service, I went up and met Dr. Falwell. He had associations from the area we’re from and that was the start of it.”
Over the years, he came to know Liberty’s founder personally, often having dinner with him on return visits to Lynchburg.
He said Falwell, Sr. was “a man of integrity, principle, a great spiritual leader, and a man who really had a heart for young people.”
He also called him “a great family man.”
“In the business world, we’d say it’s a great relationship when your children come into business with you and you leave a legacy like that. Well, he’s done that in the ministry — they (Falwell, Sr.’s sons) are at work picking up where he left off. That’s a great testament to a father. And they have taken it to a higher level, even since he has been gone.”
In the early 1990s, the Esbenshades, along with a friend, gave generously to Liberty’s tennis program by providing courts, which were named in their honor, near the dining hall. When new courts were built a few years ago, their names were transferred to the new facility.
But perhaps the closest connection they’ve had to the university came three years ago when they became proud grandparents of a Liberty University student. Their grandson (one of 15 grandchildren) graduated in May.
They visited him while he was a student and watched May’s Commencement from a suite in the Williams Stadium Tower. They said more of their grandchildren are considering attending Liberty.
Glenn Esbenshade said seeing his grandson experience all that Liberty had to offer was the biggest evidence to him that he has been supporting a worthwhile cause.
“I was more impressed than ever when I watched him the last few years. When I saw his education and how Liberty kept him grounded in his faith and the spiritual emphasis and guidance there, I thought, ‘Wow we need to have this university prosper in the future.’”
The Esbenshades are taking part in that future growth through their recent gift to the new Jerry Falwell Library, currently under construction. The library’s grand entrance hall will be named in their honor.
Glenn Esbenshade said he is proud to be a part of a university that is making such a large impact on students, just as his friend, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., had envisioned so many years ago.
“They can go out in their life’s work, whatever they do, whether it’s business, or missions, or whatever, and they have a foundation to go forth with. Liberty has become a first-class university and they do things right — in the buildings they build and what they’re doing now. It’s a premier Christian university.”