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Class of 2022 learns to define personal, faith-led success during Commencement Main Ceremony

A rainy Friday morning didn’t stop Liberty University’s Class of 2022 from shining through as they gathered in Williams Stadium for the Commencement Main Ceremony. Keynote speaker and leadership expert John Maxwell encouraged the newest Champions for Christ to stay consistent, embrace failures, and understand the true meaning of success.

Liberty celebrated over 23,000 graduates this year; over 9,800 participated in on-campus ceremonies this week‚ the largest for any Liberty Commencement. Roughly 80 percent (18,505) of the graduating class earned degrees through Liberty University Online Programs. Degree presentation ceremonies for individual programs and schools were planned for Thursday-Saturday. Over 60,000 guests were expected on campus for Commencement events.

Graduates filed onto the field Friday to processional fanfare by the Liberty University Wind Symphony before LU Praise, Liberty’s premier gospel choir, led the crowd in worship.

Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell then welcomed them and led a prayer of thanks that the Class of 2022 and their loved ones could gather for the ceremony. This is the first year since 2019 that Liberty has held its Main Ceremony in person. Falwell cited a phrase his late father, Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, would often say: “Nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer.” Jonathan Falwell noted that this year’s Commencement is a special one for his family. He recognized two of his children and his niece — the last three of Dr. Falwell’s grandchildren to graduate from Liberty.

Liberty President Jerry Prevo then delivered a message for the graduates.

“This is an exciting time here at Liberty University,” Prevo said. “God is blessing this university. You have had unexpected challenges, but you have persevered. … Now the day that you’ve dreamed of has become a reality. You should be proud of what you’ve done; the diploma is yours, you’ve earned it.”

Prevo recognized the wide range of groups present in person or in spirit at Commencement, including active duty and military veterans, honors students, and the mothers in the audience ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday. He highlighted the year’s successes in athletics and academics and thanked the many students who served others throughout the school year with Christian Community Service (CSER), LU Serve, and Liberty’s efforts to serve those in Ukraine. He held a moment of silence for the 23 graduates honored with posthumous degrees who are now with the Lord.

For the past academic year, Liberty has celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Prevo said Liberty’s goal since 1971 has been for its graduates to be Champions for Christ in their respective fields, highly trained professionals who excel in their jobs while being witnesses for the Lord.

“Some people doubted that a small Christian college built on a farm in these foothills could ever have much impact, but the doubts are gone,” Prevo said. “For five decades, Liberty has been sending graduates out into the world, making an impact for God. Just as Liberty has been sending out Champions for Christ for close to 50 years, today, Class of 2022, Liberty is sending you out to be Champions for Christ. We send you out to stand up for God.”

Maxwell’s granddaughter Hannah, a member of the Class of 2022, gave a surprise introduction for her grandfather, who she called “Papa John,” and they were joined on the stage by John Maxwell’s son, Joel, also a member of the Class of 2022.

In his address, Maxwell implored Liberty’s newest alumni to develop definitions of success for themselves that include a positive perspective on failure, growth from within, and consistently practicing what he called “uphill habits.”

Liberty President Jerry Prevo at the Main Ceremony for Commencement, held on Friday, May 6.

“All your life, in our culture, you’ve been taught to separate success and failure,” Maxwell said. “I’m here to tell you today … I want you to keep success and failure side by side. They belong together, they do not belong separated. … They not only belong together, they need each other. You separate them and you get arrogance in success and defeat in failure.”

Maxwell is the world’s foremost authority on business and leadership training and has advised Fortune 500 CEOs, the presidents of nations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. The multiple #1 New York Times bestselling author, speaker, coach, and leader has sold more than 34 million books in 50 languages. He is the founder of Maxwell Leadership — a leadership development organization that has trained tens of millions of leaders in every nation.

John C. Maxwell delivered the keynote address at the Main Ceremony.

“I want to congratulate you for this day,” Maxwell began. “There is a tendency to think that this is a weekend when you became successful, but this is (instead) a weekend during which your success is recognized. You were successful when you decided to go to Liberty University, you were successful when you went to class, you were successful when you studied. So many times people confuse what success is with recognition of success.”

He explained that success starts by focusing on the talents given by God, then taking the time to grow in those skills.

“Find your strengths, the three or four things you do very well, and then be very committed to consistently growing yourself. It’s a continual growth process in your life.”

In his time as a pastor, Maxwell said he found that success, by the world’s definition, was not fulfilling.

“I decided that I needed to develop a personal definition of success for me; I couldn’t let the world give me their definition of success,” he said. “I had to figure out on my own (what success is). I only give it to you because the inside (of yourself) has to be strong, and if the inside is strong, it can handle what’s on the outside.”

Achieving anything worthwhile requires an uphill journey, Maxwell explained, and the barrier to that journey is “downhill habits.”

“Everything in your life, everything in my life, every dream you have … it’s all uphill,” he said. “Here is the problem: we have uphill hopes, but we have downhill habits, and one of the downhill habits that we have to understand at this age is the want for immediate gratification. Everything worthwhile takes time, but if you stick with it, consistency compounds.”

“What we are enjoying today at Liberty University… it didn’t happen in the first year, it didn’t happen in the first decade, this is 50 years of consistency in message and focus and effort,” he added.

Maxwell was presented with an honorary Doctor of Business by President Jerry Prevo, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Scott Hicks (left), and Online Provost Shawn Akers (right).

Before Maxwell left the podium, President Prevo, Liberty Provost and Chief Academic Officer Scott Hicks, and Online Provost Shawn Akers presented him with an honorary Doctor of Business.

As part of Commencement Weekend, Liberty awarded 867 associate degrees, 9,653 bachelor’s degrees, 1,267 graduate certificates, 8,534 master’s degrees, 1,543 doctoral degrees, and 1,197 Liberty Online Academy high school program diplomas. Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrated 147 graduates. Liberty University School of Law awarded 69 juris doctors.

A benediction delivered by Liberty co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns sent the Class of 2022 and their loved ones out into the world with a prayer that God would use them for His glory.

“I pray that God will bless every graduate, no matter what God has called you to do,” Towns said. “Faithful is He that called you, who will also do it.”