Liberty hosts first outdoor Convocation to celebrate the end of the year
Thousands of students gathered on the lawn in front of the Montview Student Union April 28 as Liberty University hosted the first outdoor Convocation.
“Eighty-eight times out of the year, we get together for this thing called Convocation,” Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser said in his opening statements.
“But this is the very first time that we’ve been outside for it. You’ll know every year this is happening, but you got to be a part of the very first one.”
Both nostalgia and anticipation were prominent themes of the event.
Liberty President Jerry Falwell reminisced about attending Convocation and larger classes in a circus tent from 1979 to 1980 where DeMoss Hall now stands.
“We’ve come a long way since those days,” Falwell said.
The beginning of Convo on the academic lawn consisted of a tribute to Ally Hooten, granddaughter of evangelist Vietnam veteran and Board of Trustees member Tim Lee, who died in an ATV accident Jan. 7.
In honor of Hooten’s 17th birthday, 17 pink balloons were released into the sky as Becki Falwell passed 17 roses to an emotional Lee.
Junior Ellie Andrews said while she thought the somber dedication did not fit well in such a celebratory Convocation, she appreciates how thoughtful Falwell was.
“I’m so thankful for a president who cares enough to do that,” Andrews said.
“Even if nobody else knew the board trustee personally. He’s very caring.”
Falwell continued by reading the late Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi’s famous speech on being number one in life.
He said reciting this speech, which was framed in Jerry Falwell Sr.’s home, was to honor his father’s constant emphasis on never giving up.
Liberty Alumnus William Graham IV addressed students with advice given by his grandfather, Billy Graham, at the 1997 Liberty Commencement.
“Time is your most precious resource,” Graham said.
“When I’ve served the Lord Jesus Christ and served Him faithfully, I’ve never wasted a second in my life.”
Liberty graduate and attorney Steven Snyder also spoke, praising Liberty for its growth since its origin as Liberty Baptist College in 1971.
“This is a story that started with this vision that a preacher in Lynchburg had to build a university that trained Champions for Christ,” Snyder said.
The attorney continued by stating Falwell Senior’s full vision is still yet to be reached.
“We want to be the greatest Christian University in the world,” Snyder said.
“We want to be to evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is to American Catholics.”
Snyder closed out his speech by reminding students that all of them are at Liberty for God-ordained reasons.
“You don’t explain this without looking to the Source because God put all of this here,” Snyder said.
“None of you are here by accident. This is not a mistake, and we all get to be part of this story.”
Students were dismissed as Liberty’s replica of the Liberty Bell, originally cast for the 1976 American Bicentennial, rang 71 times atop the Freedom Tower.
“I think it all was an amazing experience,” Andrews said.
“I’m really proud of Liberty taking the risk of having Convo outside with the weather history Lynchburg has.”
Vence is a news reporter.