Legacy of Faith Tour
It started with a mountain and a dream.
Jerry Falwell Sr. was a man of great faith, and in 1971 he cast an audacious vision of a world-class Christian university that would train young people to go out into all walks of life as Champions for Christ. He walked and prayed over the ground he hoped to build this dream upon. Then he invited his congregation at Thomas Road Baptist Church, his friends and family, his community, and all who would listen to join him in this mission. And join they did.
Lynchburg Baptist College opened on Sept. 13, 1971, with 154 students. By the end of its first decade, this small college had grown to more than 3,000 students, changed its name to Liberty Baptist College, and established a campus on Liberty Mountain.
Today, Liberty University is a world-class institution with more than 125,000 residential and online students, over 250,000 alumni serving in hundreds of professions around the globe, and one singular mission of Training Champions for Christ — all because one man’s audacious vision was grounded in an unshakable faith.
We invite you to walk in the footsteps of Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., as you explore the campus that was once seen only by faith. Travel through 50 years of Liberty’s history by walking across the holy ground prayed over by thousands of believers and witness for yourself the power of faith manifested on Liberty Mountain.
Prayer in the Snow
On Jan. 21, 1977, more than 2,500 students, faculty, and administrators gathered on Liberty Mountain for a prayer meeting. They stood in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures, but the condition of their surroundings was nothing in light of their mission: to seek God’s provision for their school.
Led by Robbie Hiner, this group of believers sang “I Want That Mountain” and claimed it for God. They asked, in unwavering faith, for God to eliminate all of LBC’s debt by Feb. 28, 1977, so that construction could begin on academic buildings for the next school year. For two hours they prayed in the snow. These men and women bore a faith that could move mountains, and God answered their call.
By the end of February, Liberty Baptist College had received more than $2.5 million in donations. The college’s debt was wiped clean, and on March 1, 1977, construction began on Liberty Mountain.
The Rise of Liberty Athletics
Liberty Athletics entered a new era in the 1980s with its admission to the NCAA Division I level, a move that led to a quality athletic program with bowl game victories and national championship titles. The success of its athletic programs created a need for new top-of-the-line facilities. In 1989, the Liberty Football Stadium — now known as Williams Stadium — became one of the first athletics facilities to change the face of Liberty Mountain. Today, student-athletes train and compete in state-of-the-art facilities like the Liberty Arena, Liberty Baseball Stadium, Liberty Indoor Track & Field Complex, and Liberty Natatorium.
Over the years, Liberty Athletics has risen to prominence, competing against the top programs in the nation across multiple sports. Among the many accomplishments of Liberty’s sports teams, one of the most notable occurred in 2019 when Flames Football claimed its first bowl game victory at the Cure Bowl in its inaugural year of eligibility. The Flames repeated as Cure Bowl champions in 2020 over longtime rival and previously undefeated Coastal Carolina.
Spiritual and Campus Growth Unites Liberty Mountain
In March 1977, construction began on Liberty Mountain for Liberty Baptist College (LBC). Until then, students had been living in various accommodations across Lynchburg, Va., and attending classes at Thomas Road Baptist Church and assorted buildings, like Ruffner Elementary School and the old Brookville High School. By the end of that year, students were living and attending classes on their own campus.
Chapel services were initially held in the sanctuary of Thomas Road Baptist Church, but in 1978, a 3,000-seat tent was erected to accommodate the rapidly growing student body. Students gathered in the tent for services, but even with the cover, the rainy season often resulted in muddy terrain within the tent. Heaters provided as much warmth as possible, but students did not complain. They knew the Lord was at work and held to that truth while praying for their college’s future.
The Passing of the Torch
In May 2007, Liberty’s founder and visionary, Jerry Falwell Sr., passed away at the age of 73. His funeral gathered thousands in Thomas Road Baptist Church, where Franklin Graham, Jerry Vines, and Jeannie Falwell Savas, Falwell’s daughter, all spoke. He is buried on the campus he had faithfully prayed over for 36 years. The Jerry Falwell Memorial Garden was constructed around his grave, where the eternal flame of Liberty burns year-round.
Following his death, the torch passed from one generation to the next as his sons carried on their father’s vision with Jerry Falwell Jr. becoming president of Liberty University and Jonathan Falwell the senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Liberty Becomes the Largest Private University in Virginia
In 1988, Liberty University became the largest private university in Virginia with more than 11,000 students in residential and distance programs. This small Bible college in the Blue Ridge Mountains had paved its own way and silenced the voices of those who said it was impossible.
Despite its successes, Liberty entered a season of financial difficulty that tested the university’s resolve and propelled it toward a promising future. For Liberty to keep the doors open and pay the debts weighing heavily upon the campus, God had to do a mighty work on Liberty Mountain once again — and He did it through the great faith of His people. After years of prayer and fasting, a debt plan was put into place, and the sacrificial support of thousands flooded in to fill the gaps. Friends of Liberty rallied around God’s university and refused to see it close.
Liberty Goes Global with Distance Education
In May 1985, Liberty Baptist College became Liberty University and, in a step that marked the university as a pioneer in distance learning, founded the Liberty University School of Lifelong Learning (LUSLLL). Its programs were adapted from existing ones on the university’s campus, including those in the sciences, arts, communications, and biblical studies. Course content was loaded onto VHS tapes and mailed to students, who then sent back assignments and tests overseen by a proctor. In taking a risk on the new concept of distance learning, Liberty set itself apart from other Bible-based schools and universities by uniting current trends with faith-based curriculum and making a world-class Christian education available for anyone — no matter the distance.
As a pioneer in the field, Liberty continued to carve its own path when its Distance Learning Program (DLP) moved online. Students could now access and earn their degrees with just an internet connection. Word spread about Liberty and the opportunities its distance learning program offered, and in December 2008, Liberty University Online (LUO) reached a critical milestone when enrollment hit 20,000 students. Years later in 2020, a new record was set when enrollment reached 100,000 online students.
Spiritual and Athletic Champions Take the Court
Opened on Oct. 22, 1990, the Vines Center — a 10,000-seat arena rising nine stories in height — became a key facility for chapel services, sporting events, concerts, and other recreational activities. Until the Liberty Arena opened in 2020, the center was considered the home for men’s and women’s basketball, often filled with Flames fans who came to watch their teams claim Big South and ASUN championship titles repeatedly over the years.
During the week, students, faculty, and staff packed the Vines Center for Convocation — a much larger version of the chapel services held in a 3,000-seat tent in years past. Today, Convocation is North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students and hosts more than 80 spiritual leaders and professionals from a variety of fields.
A Vision Realized, A Mission Continued
In the 2010s, Liberty University entered an era of transformation and expansion that would take it into higher levels of academia and athletic competition. It had become debt-free a few years prior and, with a rising endowment, had the means to expand and impact more lives like its founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., had always dreamed.
A campus transformation plan was put into action. New athletic facilities, like the Liberty Athletics Center and Liberty Softball Stadium, gave student-athletes the opportunity to compete in state-of-the-art structures to rival those in professional leagues, while new academic buildings, a grand library, and high-rise residence halls were developed at the center of campus.
After years of faith and perseverance, the vision of Jerry Falwell Sr. was coming to fruition. The campus once seen only by faith had been realized, and Liberty’s mission of Training Champions for Christ carries on.
Learn more about Liberty’s history and how its vision of Training Champions for Christ is continuing into the future at Liberty.edu/50.