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Online students meet for the first time at graduation

Liberty University Online students Richard Kennedy of Georgia (left with his family) joins professor John George (center) and fellow students Heath Stoner from Texas and Sarah Wittcop of Lynchburg (far right). They met for the first time this weekend as they receive their MBA degrees.


10:30 a.m., Friday, May 14

I am only one day away from graduating from Liberty University Online with a Master of Business Administration.

My pursuit of a master’s degree has taken place completely in a virtual classroom over the past two years; however, I have developed relationships with my fellow LU Online students across the country and around the world.

The men and women enrolled in my online classes are just like you and me. They have families, a job, ministries, struggles and successes. Through my online classes, I have been offered glimpses into the lives of CEOs, single mothers, and soldiers on deployment, but we have never actually met in person.

This afternoon, that will all change when I have the opportunity to meet some of my fellow classmates at a graduation reception hosted by LU Online.

In January, I enrolled in Policy and Strategy in Global Competition, along with fellow group mates Heath Stoner and Richard Kennedy. Heath is the father of three children, serves as the director of the Honor Academy for Teen Mania Ministries in Lindale, Texas, and owns a small coffee shop. Richard operates a successful design and assembly firm, Kennedy Power Inc., and lives in Woodstock, Ga., with his wife and two children.

Our group met every Tuesday and Thursday evening via conference call to complete our weekly group assignments. Over the course of eight weeks we studied together, stressed together, learned together, and prayed together — all without face-to-face contact. That is about to change.

Graduation is now just less than 24 hours away, but today I will have the opportunity to put a face with the voice of Richard and Heath, when I meet them in person for the very first time as they arrive on campus to participate in the 2010 Commencement.

Neither Richard nor Heath have ever stepped foot on Liberty’s campus, but this weekend, they have the opportunity to travel to Lynchburg, walk across the graduation stage, and receive their well-deserved diploma.

5 p.m., Friday, May 14

I had a wonderful time meeting my online group mates, Heath, Richard and their beautiful families, at the LU Online graduation reception today. Our group also had the opportunity to meet Dr. John George, our professor for Policy and Strategy in Global Competition.

Meeting their families, I couldn’t help but think about their investment, not just Richard and Heath’s in earning this master’s degree. It was the support and flexibility of their families that encouraged them through their tests, assignments and discussion boards. Their wives, children and parents are extremely proud of their achievement. 

After the reception, we toured the campus, visiting the Falwell memorial, DeMoss Hall, and the Jerry Falwell Museum. After a long day of traveling – Heath drove through the night for 17 hours and Richard 8 – and low energy levels, my fellow graduates were still planning to catch the Flames baseball game vs. Coastal Carolina tonight and make the most of their time on campus. 

I congratulate them both and know that they will accomplish great things for the Lord with their master’s degrees.

  • For a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s graduation, follow Sarah Wittcop and other graduates on Twitter.

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