After an academic year of record-breaking enrollment, Regent University celebrated its largest-ever class of graduates at the 2017 University Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6.
More than 1,100 graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS); School of Business & Leadership (SBL); School of Communication & the Arts (SCA); School of Education (SOE); School of Divinity (DIV); School of Law (LAW); School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC); and Robertson School of Government (RSG) crossed the University Library Plaza, and began their journey as members of Regent’s 23,000+ alumni family.
Regent University Founder, Chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson gave a special charge to this year’s graduates, asking them to remember to abide in Jesus Christ and allow God’s word to “attach” and “dwell” within their lives. Living in this way, according to Robertson, will “get prayers answered.”
“If you dwell in Him and His word dwells in you, then nothing will be impossible for you. You’re going into a difficult world, but I want you to know that the Lord Jesus is in control of it; this is still my Father’s world,” said Robertson. “The motto of this university is very simple: Christian leadership to change the world. It’s a big task, but I believe that we’re going to do it.”
Changing the world starts with a significant accomplishment, according to Phil Walker, chairman of Regent’s Board of Trustees. While he recognized the achievement of graduates, he encouraged them to remember those who helped them get there.
“It’s important to acknowledge the contributions of the faculty and staff of Regent University and applaud the support of your families,” said Walker. “Most importantly, give praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for what He’s done in your lives while you were here. I challenge you to be leaders in our state and nation – may God bless each and every one of you and your endeavors.”
Regent School of Divinity Dean and the 2017 University Commencement Speaker Dr. Corné Bekker delivered his address acknowledging the vastly changing world, especially with regard to the invention of the internet.
And while graduates today have unlimited access to the history of the world at their fingertips, he challenged graduates to “run the race of endurance,” and forego the temptation to make their own names great. Instead, he asked them to remember seven lessons from the Apostle Paul: saying “yes” to the Lord, trusting in His word, and making Christ their message.
“Put your life on the foundation of the Word of God and you will flourish. We live in a world where everyone is tempted with an individual message,” said Bekker. “But we have a noble message, a powerful message: the message of Christ…may this generation be one where individual names fall away and the name of Christ be lifted up.”
Bekker continued, asking graduates not to be afraid or dream small, to value humility and “go forth and make Christ’s name great,” and to bear in mind 2 Timothy 4:7, fighting the “good fight” until the very end.
“Graduates, you have been entrusted with a noble charge, a high call and an eternal message: do not be afraid, never shrink back, Trust in God. Your future is bright because he’s already there,” said Bekker. “Go forth and run this race for Him.”
School of Divinity graduate Benjamin Crisp ’17 responded to this charge as he shared in the celebration along with his classmates. Although he knows the scholastic endeavors of each of the schools brings about an “eclectic” Regent experience, he knows each graduate identifies with the community and “empowering spirit” present on campus. This, he said, will help them “press on in the race” throughout life’s trials.
“We must run, we must run into every nation. We must run with no restraint, knowing our family and friends are behind us,” said Crisp. “We must run knowing that the wind of God is at our back – and we must run for the Glory of God. God bless the class of 2017.”
Following his remarks, executive vice president for Academic Affairs and CAS dean Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño presented the Chancellor’s Award to CAS associate professor Dr. Joseph Bucci. Each year the award is presented to a faculty member who “exemplifies a profound commitment to Regent and its mission.”
“[Dr. Bucci] devotes himself to the flourishing of students and alumni, faculty and staff and he networks tirelessly to link students and alumni with employment opportunities,” said Moreno-Riaño. “This is a distinguished honor.”
Another distinction made at University Commencement is the Alumnus of the Year Award. This year, Dr. Daniel Backens (DIV) ’99 was presented with the award, a distinction he called “humbling.”
Backens serves as the senior pastor of New Life Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His church is staffed with many Regent graduates, and began with its very roots at Regent.
“God brought you here to meet people; when you leave, cultivate those friendships, don’t let them die,” said Backens. “This really is the place where you can dream, and who knows? Maybe God has a dream for you that you can never imagine. One day you may be standing here saying, ‘let me tell you my story.’”
Following the presentation of graduates and conferring of degrees, two ROTC Army Cadets received their commissions. The ceremony closed with a benediction from Robertson, and the release of nearly 40 pounds of blue and green confetti to commemorate the anticipated event.