VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (May 9, 2020) – On Saturday, May 9, 2020, Regent University conferred nearly 2,300 undergraduate and graduate degrees — the largest graduating class in the school’s history. Graduates rallied together online with family and friends from all over the world to watch Commencement live. Over 50,000 viewers on the Regent University website and Facebook page joined the Commencement ceremony.
Like many graduations across the country, Regent University’s commencement and school-specific commissioning ceremonies were moved to an online format due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. However, that did not stop the Regent community from celebrating its 40th Commencement ceremony.
A crescendo of excitement could be felt in the atmosphere as a flurry of social media posts ushered in Regent’s Commencement Ceremony:
“Bragging on all [social media] platforms. You see it: 23 with 2 degrees! Thank you, God, you are so worthy,” wrote Unique Destiny Bellamy.
“I did it! Double educated,” pinged Kat O’Mally.
Annalisa Roughton posted: “Celebrating home-style! It only took 20 years, working full time and raising two kids. It can be done. When God calls, you obey, and He makes the way!”
Loved ones of graduates like Wendy Johnson in Texas and Allison Schwartz in Arizona posted photos of graduates in caps and gowns.
Shannon Burke posted: “Could not have accomplished my master’s without Jesus!”
Scrolling through #RegentGrad2020 posts, this message served as a unifying reminder: “Beloved Class of 2020: Although we are separated in distance, we are not separated in His Spirit,” Dean Corné Bekker, D.Litt. et Phil, School of Divinity.
In a time when tweets, texts, selfies, posts, online courses, webinars, and video chats are changing the global landscape — Regent’s Class of 2020 graciously made the pivot to a virtual commencement ceremony.
Certainly, the loss of a traditional ceremony was felt by all. Yet, Regent graduates, faculty, staff, and friends chose a spirit of enthusiasm. Days before the event, the Class of 2020 received graduation packages in the mail filled with keepsakes, including a personalized card from Regent Founder, Chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, copies of the commencement program, balloons, confetti, congratulations banners, tassels, a commemorative keychain, a Regent Alumni bumper sticker, and more.
“The class of 2020 has displayed remarkable resilience and fortitude during these trying times, and we are so proud of their tremendous accomplishments,” said Claire Foster, Regent’s vice president for Marketing & Public Relations. “The graduation packages were a fun way to show our love and support, and to help our graduates celebrate this significant milestone.”
While LiveWall, Facebook Live and Twitter buzzed, a looped reel of #RegentGrad2020 pictures preceded the livestream broadcast with affirming messages.
Matthew West’s new song, Take Heart, inspired by the artist’s COVID-19 experience, played in the background: “In this world, you will have trouble / But I have overcome the world / So take heart / And take a breath / Let me lift that heavy weight up off your chest / But take My hand / I know it’s lookin’ dark / When the world falls all around you / I won’t let you fall apart / Take heart.”
The ceremony opened with the national anthem, performed by alumna Joy Windham, followed by a video titled We Are More Than Conquerors (this year’s theme), which featured encouraging messages from alumni, faculty and friends of Regent, such as Rev. Franklin Graham, Gov. Bob McDonnell, Attorney Jay Sekulow, former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, Judge Ken Starr, former NFL linebacker and inspirational coach Jason Carthen, Pastor Mark Batterson, CBN President and CEO Gordon Robertson, and Alumnus of the Year Ann Buwalda.
Graham reminded graduates, “Just remember it’s about Jesus, everything in life is about Him,” while Sekulow expressed, “What a time to be engaging the culture!”
Graduates, loved ones, faculty and staff followed along online using the 2020 Commencement Program as a guide.
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, who spoke live from Regent’s Shaw Chapel, welcomed the online audience to Regent University’s 40th graduation and its first virtual commencement in the school’s history. “At this very moment, graduates along with friends and family from across the nation and around the world are gathered for this historic online event to honor and celebrate the Class of 2020.”
Before opening with a prayer, Dr. Robertson commented on the coronavirus pandemic and acknowledged graduates in the healthcare industry: “Our national anthem is a song we often take for granted, but it is a song of resolve, of resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. Although Regent’s campus has been quiet since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are a community of resolve and many of our graduates have been serving on the frontlines of this deadly virus — already fulfilling Regent’s mission as Christian leaders to change the world.”
Robertson noted that the Regent alumni community now includes over 29,000 world changers. He also highlighted some notable accomplishments of the university, including:
- U.S. News & World Report ranked Regent University as a Top National University among colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
- Regent is among the fastest growing universities in the nation. Our enrollment is nearly 11,000 with students from all 50 states and over 90 different countries.
- This fall, Regent will launch a standalone Honors College on its Virginia Beach campus.
- The Princeton Review has ranked Regent’s School of Law Top 5 in the Nation for Professors and Top 35 for Academic Experience.
- In December 2019, Regent earned a 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
- Our School of Law has just unveiled the Robertson Center for Constitutional Law.
- Regent is equipping nurses to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through our Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing programs.
- Study.com ranked Regent as the #1 Best Accredited Online College in 2020.
- The Military Times ranked Regent among the Top 10 Best for Vets Colleges.
Chairman of Regent’s Board of Trustees Phil Walker provided a video greeting on behalf of the board, reminding graduates: “Your degree represents hard work and dedication to a worthy goal!”
Robertson then introduced the keynote speaker Mr. Eric Metaxas. Metaxas, an internationally renowned author and speaker, has penned numerous No. 1 New York Times bestselling books.
Metaxas asked, “Do you believe that all things work together for good for all those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes?” He challenged graduates to trust that God has this current situation and each graduate’s future under control. “The Lord is a God of history and He is never caught off guard!”
Following the keynote address, Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, carried out the recognition of honors. Graduates who earned joint degrees were also recognized.
Robertson then pronounced his charge to graduates. After which, he introduced Sabrina Matera Ozorio Estrella, from the Robertson School of Government (M.A. in National Security Studies – Cybersecurity Policy), to deliver the student reflections and response charge from the chancellor. Addressing the chancellor and faculty, she said, “Thank you for instilling in us a spirit of integrity.”
Estrella’s message was based on this year’s inspired scripture: Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). She challenged her class to “never surrender” and confidently declared: “We will overcome.”
Moreno-Riaño returned to the lectern for the presentation of graduates and conferring of degrees with Robertson and the deans and directors of each school and college.
Following the presentation of graduates and conferring degrees, Robertson exclaimed, “Congratulations, graduates!” — the traditional verbal cue for the release of confetti and balloons. This also marked the start of a celebration video, while simultaneously, university leaders on the platform sang the official Regent University song: Regent, Host of Faith & Learning.
Robertson closed the commencement ceremony with a touching benediction, followed by: “And now the reading of names!”
Each graduate’s name was read aloud as their name appeared on the screen accompanied with their photograph. Graduates were able to follow along and capture the moment their name was read. Angelia Boothe Cooper (DIV ’20) was included in the reading of the names and awarded a posthumous degree.
“Our I.T. and Media teams, as well as countless other Regent teams, were eager to help make this year’s graduation extra special,” said Jonathan Harrell, assistant vice president, Information Technology. “We spent many hours and late nights preparing for this day because our graduates and their hard work matter immeasurably. At the end of the day, we hope the Regent Class of 2020 knows that we are with them, cheering them on, and that they really are world changers.”
ABOUT REGENT UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1978, Regent University has nearly 11,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from a Christian perspective in 135+ program areas including business, communication and the arts, cybersecurity and technology, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing and healthcare, and psychology. Currently, Regent University is ranked among top national universities by U.S. News & World Report and is one of only 23 universities nationally to receive an “A” rating for its comprehensive liberal arts core curriculum. In its 2020 “Best Online Programs” rankings, Regent University’s College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) again scored #1 for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” among Virginia schools, the eighth year in a row that Regent has earned the top position. The university also earned its 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the highest level that a university can be awarded from that organization.