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Keeping the Liberty Legacy Alive

February 21, 2018

Liberty University students who are children of Liberty alumni are usually quick to tell you the stories they grew up hearing — from words spoken by Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr. during Convocation to how the dress code has changed over the years. These students also heard how their parents’ faith was invigorated at Liberty. And some can even tell you how their parents met on campus.

But now these students are creating their own stories at Liberty. They, too, are being impacted both spiritually and academically, making lifelong friends and being taught by professors they will never forget. Here are just a few stories out of the hundreds from second-generation families who have called Liberty home.

The Nances

Liberty student Claire Nance, right, with her parents, Penny (’89) and Will Nance, and brother Briscoe.

Remembering how much Liberty influenced her own spiritual walk and bolstered her academic career, Penny Nance (’89) was not shy about where she wanted her daughter, Claire, to go to college.

“Of course I had very strong feelings for Liberty when Claire was choosing schools,” Nance said. “I just believe strongly that Liberty offers her both academically and spiritually the kind of setting she needs to grow and be ready.”

Penny graduated with a degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations. She currently serves as president and CEO of Concerned Women for America — of which Liberty has a campus chapter — and said Liberty’s biblically minded education was essential in preparing her for her career. That was 30 years ago. Nance said that since then, Liberty has only grown and developed into a world-class university.

“What I saw when I visited Liberty, while looking at it for my daughter, was a fully matured organization and university that managed to retain its mission of Training Champions for Christ.”

At first, Claire was not so sure about choosing her mother’s alma mater. Like many teenagers looking at colleges, she wanted to see for herself which college suited her best. It was not until she decided to visit Liberty that she realized its unique, welcoming culture.

“For me, it wasn’t just that Liberty has great professors,” Claire said. “But seeing how many different things there were to do around campus and getting to be a part of a community where everyone is so kind and people want to genuinely be a part of my life — that’s what really made it worth it.” Claire is now a junior studying strategic communication. She said she made the right choice.

“When I talk to my friends who go to other state schools, they say they have a Christian community, but it’s in the confines of this small sphere of a few hundred on campus,” Claire said. “Here on Liberty’s campus, our sphere is made up of 15,500 students — the whole school — which definitely makes a difference.”

The Orths

Liberty student Becca Orth with her father, Larry Orth (’92).

Liberty alumnus Larry Orth (’92) had a different experience. Instead of taking classes in DeMoss Hall or hanging around in his dorm on the Hill, Larry was back at home in Minnesota with a pile of videotapes.

He was enrolled in the distance learning program, an alternative form of education that was becoming increasingly popular among students for its flexible, convenient format. Orth watched lectures on videotapes he received through the mail and would take tests in front of an approved proctor, finishing the class within 120 days. The original distance learning program paved the way for Liberty to become a leader in online education today.

“I liked the flexibility of the format at the time, and it was a creative way of getting an education. What I really loved about the courses is that I could apply them to all aspects of life, in whatever I was doing.”

After taking a class on the book of Hebrews, Larry was so inspired by the Christ-centered education he received through Liberty that he decided to redirect his life goals. Instead of receiving his M.B.A. and continuing his career in business and finance, Larry earned his Master of Religion, preparing him to serve as a pastor of care and community outreach at his church in Rochester, Minn.

His love for Liberty was imparted to his children: all four of them ended up choosing Liberty and attending classes on campus. For Becca, currently a freshman majoring in business administration, Liberty always seemed to be a part of the family. Her older siblings, Macai (’12), Renee (’14), and Ben (’17) further influenced her decision to carry on her family’s legacy.

“After my siblings went there, I really saw how much Liberty impacted them, and I knew I was going to the right place. I wanted to experience that same education, particularly the way Liberty exposes us to a Christian worldview, making sure we have that in every aspect of our lives.”

The Richardses

Cheryl and Darren Richards, 1989 Liberty graduates, with their children, Dustin, Beatrice, Julie and Kate. Beatrice and Julie are current Liberty students.

Cheryl (’89) and Darren (’89) Richards first came to Liberty in 1985. Back then, the campus was vastly different from today. Long gone is the red dirt that Cheryl remembers would stain her clothes. The hockey team now practices in its own ice arena and no longer travels an hour away for practice, as Darren’s team once did.

Their daughters are following in their footsteps. Beatrice, a freshman, and Julie, a junior, are both nursing students. Having grown up more than 2,000 miles away from Lynchburg in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the sisters say they were unsure at first about moving to America for college — even with all the positive stories they’d heard from their parents. But now, they said, they have never looked back.

“Everything has definitely exceeded all of my expectations from what my parents told me,” Julie said, “particularly with the friendships I’ve made. I didn’t know if Americans were going to be all that different from Canadians, but everyone has been so nice and supportive here.”

While the red dirt has been replaced with an expansive lawn — and new buildings now stand in the place of old ones — Cheryl and Darren said they’re glad that their daughters are able to attend a school that has stayed true to its mission.

“Jerry Sr. used to always say, ‘If it’s Christian, it ought to be better,’ and that ‘We’re not going to be the Harvards or other schools that water down their faith over the years,’” Cheryl said. “It’s been so refreshing to see that dream come true, to see how Jerry Jr. has really taken his father’s mission to heart.”

Legacy Scholarship

For families interested in carrying Liberty’s legacy to the next generation, Liberty offers the Legacy Scholarship. This $1,000 scholarship — awarded per year for up to four years — is open to new residential students with a parent/guardian who earned an undergraduate degree from Liberty. Learn more at Liberty.edu/Scholarships.

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