The Carson Connection: One Alumna’s Dream and the Famous Surgeon’s Relationship with Liberty
Esteemed neurosurgeon, former presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson has had a close relationship with Liberty University since he first came to Convocation in 2012.
Liberty alumna Merisa Parson Davis had a big dream of Carson visiting the university nearly a decade ago.
Davis took the initiative to have Carson speak as the chair of Liberty University’s Multicultural Advisory Board when she pitched the idea in 2011 for Carson to come to Convocation. Davis said she knew Liberty would love the doctor, who had previously endorsed Davis’s first book released in 2010.
Davis pursued her request even further and traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with his personal secretary at Johns Hopkins University to advocate for Carson’s visit. When the secretary shared his speaking rate, Davis said she didn’t even flinch. She knew he had to come to Liberty.
Carson agreed and after other actions from the university, he made his first visit to Liberty University in 2012. Carson has visited Liberty multiple times since his first visit and has been a keynote speaker and guest at commencement ceremonies.
Davis said Carson was instrumental in the design and function of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Carson’s relationship with Liberty would also have implications that would impact the institution for the better in unforeseen ways down the road.
When Carson spoke at Liberty’s 2018 Commencement, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell told the doctor about a severe headache problem that he had faced for years. Falwell had also suffered two small strokes in 2016.
Carson informed Falwell that this could be caused from a problem with circulation from his heart and that there was a procedure that would repair this life-threatening problem, which could save his life.
Carson helped Falwell secure a connection with Dr. James Thompson, a cardiac surgeon who could perform this potentially lifesaving NobleStitch procedure. The revolutionary NobleStitch procedure allows a doctor to stitch up holes in a patient’s heart without performing invasive surgery, according to the CBN News story.
When Thompson performed the procedure in fall 2018, he was the only surgeon in the U.S. to have performed the new procedure at that time. He told Falwell he was fortunate he had not had a major stroke before the procedure, which not only relieved his severe headaches but ultimately saved his life.
Davis said the connection she helped foster with Carson stems from the investment Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. made in her family when she was a child.
Davis said she and her four siblings were “pew babies” at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Their family would load up in the station wagon for Sunday night services at Thomas Road since their dad, Robert Roosevelt Parson, preached at his own church on Sunday mornings. Their family was one of the first African American families to attend Thomas Road in the 1970s.
Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. pursued a relationship with the Parson family and told their dad that the Parson children would one day attend Liberty University. Their mother, Lular Moore Parson, made certain that happened and even returned to college later in life to receive a bachelor’s degree from Liberty herself.
Decades later, all five of the Parson children hold degrees from Liberty. Davis graduated with a degree in broadcast performance in 1986 and in 2008 with a master’s degree in theological studies and has remained a part of the Liberty family ever since.
A member of the third generation of the Parson family, Charissa Davis, is now a Liberty junior in the School of Business studying cybersecurity.
Davis’s sister, Dr. Monica Parson, is a professor of physical education and health at Liberty. Parson said she has witnessed Jerry Falwell Sr.’s dream come into fruition through Liberty’s recent development and prominence on the national stage. She said the university still holds to its original roots.
“We are still true. We’ve stayed true. We’re going to keep on staying true. Jerry Falwell Sr. wanted to make sure that happened,” Parson said.
Davis is now working towards her Ph.D. from Liberty, leads in ministry with her husband, Marc Davis, at Victory Temple Atlanta Church in Lilburn, Georgia, and is the author of two books. Her latest book, “Demons, Drugs, and Deliverance,” was released in November 2018.
Davis said she would not be where she is today without Falwell Sr. and his family.
“(Liberty) has been instrumental in the success of our family,” Davis said.
Emily Wood is the Editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRWood17