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With Help From Donor, Law Graduate Finds His Calling in Southwest Virginia

October 11, 2017

As the Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Pittsylvania County in Virginia, Mark Hicks (’09, ’12) is grateful for the anonymous donor who made it possible for him to attend Liberty University School of Law. He is also grateful to God for helping him overcome obstacles that could have kept him from a legal career, including a severe childhood speech impediment.

“I couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘r,’ which is hard when your name is Mark,” Hicks said. “I was on a Little League team, and I remember my coach could not understand what my name was, so I just told him it was Allen, which is my middle name. I was so embarrassed.”

While in speech therapy, Hicks quickly found that he related to the stories of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

“Jeremiah couldn’t speak,” Hicks said. “God touched his lips, and Jeremiah was able to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. I really took that to heart.”

Hicks completed a pre-law degree at Liberty in May 2009. While he felt a calling to become a lawyer, Hicks said he was still a bit unsure if he could really do it. He came to terms with his uncertainty that summer in the parking lot of Lynchburg General Hospital, where he was visiting his father. He ran into Rusty Smallwood, a planned giving officer at Liberty, who was also there to visit Hicks’ father, a friend of his.

“Rusty said to me, ‘Mark, why are you wasting your time? You know you’re supposed to be in law school,’” Hicks recalled. That was the encouragement he needed. “Right after that I enrolled for the Fall 2009 semester.”

Hicks still had one more obstacle: paying for the degree. He didn’t know where the money would come from, but he knew God was orchestrating his steps. Smallwood had just learned of a donor who expressed the desire to help a student enter the law profession and impact the culture for Christ. He immediately thought of Hicks. The donor paid Hicks’ full tuition. Hicks was able to thank his patron face-to-face when he traveled to a moot court competition in California (where the donor lived).

Hicks said his time at Liberty not only prepared him for his profession, but also for a life of service.

“Everyone who goes to Liberty has an underlying calling to be there, especially in the law school. Everyone I met felt guided there by the Lord, and we all felt a special sense of community. The professors really care about their students. Several took me under their wings. They anchored everything to a Christian worldview.”

In his current position, Hicks still answers God’s call every day — and fulfills his donor’s wishes — as he serves the people of Pittsylvania County.

“Being a prosecutor is definitely a calling,” he said. “It’s a chance to make a difference in the community you serve. I found that most criminals aren’t evil people, but people who have an issue that needs to be addressed. In some cases, that means seeking a conviction in court. But there is nothing like getting a hug from a victim and hearing them tell you, ‘Thank you.’ That’s what makes it worth it for me. Even if it’s just one person you help. In the movies or on television, you see prosecutors talking about their win-lose percentages. Honestly, it’s not about that. It’s about seeking justice for
your victims.”

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