Academics

Beacon of Freedom

February 21, 2018
Academics

Beacon of Freedom

February 21, 2018

New campus landmark stands as a shining testament to Liberty’s firm Christian foundation

When Liberty University broke ground over two years ago on the structure that would top off its nearly $1 billion campus rebuilding, Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the Rawlings School of Divinity, said Freedom Tower was aptly named.

“We stand for the freedom of the power of the Gospel,” he said. “Freedom is a message of truth that transforms an individual — it not only forgives our sin, but changes us from within and makes us new creations. This tower will remind us that God is at the center of this campus and that He is the reason why we do everything.”

  • (Photo by Kevin Manguiob)
  • (Photo by Jessie Rogers)
  • (Photo by Jessie Rogers)
  • (Photo by Leah Seavers)
  • (Photo by Kevin Manguiob)

Now, the 275-foot-tall tower and the large, three-story building encircling its base is a bold, tangible sign of Liberty’s commitment to preparing students both academically and spiritually. It points heavenward, toward the One whom Liberty and its students, faculty, and staff seek to honor.

The facility is not only the architectural centerpiece of campus, it is also the home of the School of Divinity, the world’s largest school for religious studies and ministerial training.

From the moment you step inside, it’s obvious that work of eternal significance is being done there. Just inside the main doors stands a large globe, and at its feet are engraved the words of Matthew 28:19: “Go, and make disciples of all nations” – in English and in Greek.

Classrooms and offices for the various centers within the School of Divinity are located throughout the building, including the tower. The ground level includes a 150-seat interactive classroom as well as an immersion classroom with projectors that surround the room, visually transporting students to remote locations, such as the Holy Land.

A full-size replica of the Liberty Bell — commissioned in 1976 to celebrate America’s bicentennial and the renaming of Lynchburg Baptist College to Liberty Baptist College — is the centerpiece of the 25-bell carillon, which is electronically controlled and can be programmed to play a number of melodies. (Photo by Jessie Rogers)

From the lobby, visitors can take a contemporary grand staircase with landings on the second and third floors or use one of the elevators on either side to travel higher up the tower. More adventurous visitors can take the single stairwell and climb the 409 steps to the top, admiring the views of campus every step of the way. Levels 2 and 3 feature rooftop terraces, with the fourth floor boasting a large, wrap-around plaza and garden pergola.

A homiletics lab for students to sharpen their preaching and public speaking skills is on the seventh floor, while the eighth floor holds a conference room. Floors 9-12 are made up of more classrooms, and an executive conference room is located on Floor 13.

Visitors enjoy expansive views of the campus lawn from the indoor observation deck on Floor 15, though 360-degree views are available on the 17th floor, accessible through a special glass elevator that runs between the two floors only. At the very top, you can also gaze at the 25-bell carillon, including Liberty’s own Liberty Bell, cast in 1976, hanging above.

The lead architectural firm on the project was VMDO, out of Charlottesville, Va., which worked closely with Construction Management Associates. Both have been responsible for several projects in Liberty’s campus rebuilding. Fox & Associates of Richmond, Va., was the lead structural engineering firm.

Left to right: Dan Deter, Liberty vice president of major construction; Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church; Dr. Elmer Towns, Liberty co-founder and former dean; Dr. Ron Hawkins, provost and chief academic officer; President Jerry Falwell; Dr. Ed Hindson, dean, Rawlings School of Divinity; Bobby Moon, president, Construction Management Associates; Megan Lucas, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance CEO.

A grand opening was held on Feb. 5, attended by Liberty leadership, School of Divinity faculty and staff, generous supporters, and representatives from the City of Lynchburg.

Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Ron Hawkins greeted guests and opened the ceremony with a prayer. President Jerry Falwell then addressed the crowd, explaining that as the master plan for Liberty’s massive campus rebuilding unfolded over the years, there was no single building that he felt could be the focal point of campus. The idea of a tower that would also serve an academic purpose was well-received.

“Freedom Tower will be a testament to our heritage as a Christian university and will really make a statement to everyone for years to come about what the school is all about,” Falwell said. “That was the idea, and we are so thrilled to see it take shape.”

COMING SOON: The Rawlings Scriptorium, located on the first floor, is scheduled to open in April. The exhibit will display a collection of sacred texts valued at over $1 million as well as interactive screens and a life-size replica of the Gutenberg press, the first movable-type printing press.

As a divinity student himself in the 1980s, Falwell talked about how the school helped to shape his Christian worldview. He also thanked the donors and supporters, including the Rawlings family (brothers Herb, Harold, Carrol, and George), whose foundation donated $12 million toward the project. The family has been directly involved with some of the unique aspects of the building, including a scriptorium, which will open in April. The family was not present at the ceremony, but will receive a full tour on one of their regular visits to campus in the near future.

Liberty co-founder and former dean Dr. Elmer Towns also addressed the crowd. He talked about the extraordinary faith of Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, who saw the vision for a world-class university that would train and equip students to reach the world for Christ.

“Today, I am overwhelmed by what God has done by the faith of Dr. Falwell and his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., and what they want to do for God,” he said.

LED lights line the exterior structure of Freedom Tower. A programmable system allows the tower to be lit up in a variety of colors and can be used for celebrating events, including holidays and when the Flames make a touchdown. After the Super Bowl, the tower was lit up in green in honor of Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback and Liberty student Nick Foles for his dedication to living out his faith during his football career. (Click image to read more about Foles.)

Towns recalled speaking at Liberty’s first Convocation in 1971, preaching on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, the same Scripture that is now etched on the lobby floor.

Hindson then spoke about the building’s state-of-the-art features, calling it “a divinity school for the 21st century.”

“This is an electronic marvel that has incorporated some of the greatest ideas of modern technology that are going to enable us to teach more powerfully and effectively than ever before,” he said.

But aside from its state-of-the-art features, Freedom Tower will stand as a beacon of truth in a world in need of a Savior.

“The light of the Gospel will shine from this building for generations to come, reminding us that the truth of Scripture speaks into every discipline of academic study,” Hindson said. “It is our prayer that when people see the lights of the building at night, it will remind them that the light of truth must resonate from this place.”

The ceremony concluded with a closing prayer of dedication from Thomas Road Baptist Church Senior Pastor Jonathan Falwell.

(Left) Dr. Carl Diemer conducts class in the upstairs lobby of the original Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1975. (Right) Dr. Kevin King teaches a class in the homiletics lab on the seventh floor of Freedom Tower on Feb. 5.

BLESSINGS ABOUND

Even with the growth, Rawlings School of Divinity remains steadfast in its mission to impact the world for Christ

Founded as Lynchburg Baptist Theological Seminary in September 1973, Liberty’s divinity school began with an enrollment of 41 students and Jerry Falwell Sr. as president and chancellor. Classroom space was limited, so students sometimes met in the upstairs lobby of the original Thomas Road Baptist Church. Almost 45 years later, the Rawlings School of Divinity continues to demonstrate that a rigorous academic program can be built on faith, dedication, and the blessings of God.

In 1975, the seminary was given approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to grant graduate degrees. In 2015, approval was granted by Liberty’s Board of Trustees to combine the School of Religion with the seminary, forming the Rawlings School of Divinity, named in honor of the Rawlings Foundation, which has donated $12 million in recent years. Brothers Carrol, Harold, George, and Herb Rawlings have been directly involved in the planning of the upcoming scriptorium and other unique features in the building. Their father, the late Dr. John Rawlings, was a pastor for over 70 years and was an advisor to Falwell Sr., during Liberty’s early years. He also served on the Board of Trustees.

“Liberty University is deeply grateful to the Rawlings family for this incredible investment,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. “I think it’s the perfect capstone to everything else we’ve done.”

The School of Divinity offers programs both on campus and online, from the certificate to the doctoral level. With a variety of academic tracks available, students can pursue degrees that match their area of interest, all with a solid, biblically based foundation. Courses are designed to cultivate authentic faith, Christlike character, and professional excellence. Programs equip people for lay ministry, personal enrichment, global leadership, church leadership, and advanced scholarly research.

Graduates are grounded in the knowledge of God’s Word, a desire to impact the world for God’s kingdom, and the skills to engage the culture with the Gospel. Renowned faculty bring more than a firm commitment to conservative evangelical theology to the classroom — they bring years of research and publishing, ministerial experience, cultural influence, and leadership.

As a Christian community, the School of Divinity seeks to encourage spiritual growth and faithful service to Christ and His church. As an academic community, it imparts knowledge and necessary skills to men and women who are called to Christian ministry. As a service community, it seeks to respond to the needs of local churches and ministries as they participate in worship, global evangelism, discipleship, and scholarship.

For a full list of degree offerings, visit Liberty.edu/Divinity.

PICTURE PERFECT

Since the start of the spring semester, Freedom Tower has become a popular place to visit and take photographs. Check out these posts from social media. Students and guests, we thank you for sharing these scenes with us!

  • @cinnamontoastkrunk
  • @_josephlouis
  • @bailey.rapp
  • @russell_wofford
  • @patrickh10
  • @lutechnology
  • @pics.resoro_

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