September 24, 2021 : By Logan Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University’s Helms School of Government has added two professors to its faculty roster, each equipped with 30 years of robust experience in policy and intelligence at the top levels of our nation’s government and military.
Rear Admiral Tony Cothron, Associate Professor of Government, was the 62nd director of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in the Pentagon, with other assignments that included the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Following his career in government, Cothron spent 12 years in the Defense Industry.
Scott Roenicke, Associate Professor of Government, retired from a 30-year career at the Pentagon as a Senior Advisor for Russia Affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addition to serving as the Director for Russia Affairs at the White House in the National Security Council.
Both professors said their decisions to transition to Liberty were based on the opportunity to influence Christian young people who will make an impact in government.
“I was very fortunate in my career. I had great mentors and support, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way,” said Cothron, who will be the program director for the Helms School’s National Security and Strategic Intelligence program. “I had a lot of help from God that enabled me to be successful, and I just feel that I need to pass that on. Our country needs good, strong leaders who are soundly and rigorously educated, and I couldn’t be happier to be here and be a part of this team Training Champions for Christ.”
As part of his role, Cothron is teaching courses on ethics and intelligence, introduction to intelligence and national security, and terrorism. He will also be responsible for establishing the learning objectives for both the online and residential intelligence programs.
Cothron said he hopes to help shape the next generation of government leaders who will be grounded in Christian principles.
“This country and the world are having a lot of problems,” he said. “And in my career in the Navy and in business, what I saw repeatedly is that leadership matters. And leadership, as I used to tell my troops, isn’t about how many people work for you. Leadership is taking ownership, responsibility, and accountability for what you’re tasked with and going above and beyond to help the whole team.”
Radical extremism hits close to home for Roenicke, who will also be teaching courses in terrorism as well as international relations and advanced intelligence analytics. Roenicke was working at the Pentagon on 9/11 as the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building, killing many of his comrades.
“It was a seminal moment. It was life-changing,” Roenicke said. “Even all our strategic competitors and enemies instantaneously became prospective allies in the war on terrorism.”
In his career, Roenicke was put in a position of influence with multiple United States presidents, Secretaries of Defense, and the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“All of that is not because of my personal achievement or capabilities. It’s because of my God’s greatness,” he said. “God put me where He wanted me, whether that be in the Pentagon or in the White House, for a reason.”
But more than his career as a national security leader, Roenicke brings a unique perspective into the classroom, having been a victim of terrorism.
“I’ve struggled all my life with survivors’ remorse over that day,” Roenicke added. “I’ve always wondered ‘Why did I survive?’ I still don’t know the answer to that. But maybe I survived to be here at Liberty. Maybe I can serve His Kingdom somehow here, and I’m honored and privileged to do just that— in fact, this is probably the most consequential position I’ve ever had in my life.”
Both professors stressed the need for Christian practitioners in our nation’s capital.
“It’s not easy being a Christian in Washington, D.C.,” Roenicke said. “I would love to equip young people who love Jesus Christ and send them up to Washington to serve their country and God. It’s so dark up there right now. There are so many people who lack hope and who lack vision. We need more people who understand the reality of our existence, who can speak into their environment, and align what they’re doing with the Kingdom of God.”
Cothron added that those in the intelligence industry deal with secrets and life-and-death issues, and clinging to their faith is essential.
“The intelligence business that I participated in is extremely demanding,” Cothron said. “… If you don’t have that good, fundamental moral foundation to go back to when you have those challenges, then you will have significant problems at home and in your job. The challenging academic education and the exceptional spiritual support provided to students here at Liberty University are the best I’ve ever seen and will enable our graduates to change our country and the world.”