A sentimental 20-something College of Arts & Sciences graduate poses for a final selfie with her college roommates. “Say, ‘Pizza rolls and chocolate!’” they tease, in homage to the late-night menu that got them through finals.
A School of Law graduate embraces his wife through tears of joy. “This is our degree,” he insists.
A 32-year-old bachelor’s in management grad high-fives his young son: “You’re next, buddy!” Reflecting on his “juggle” as a full-time worker-husband-father, plus student, he confirms: “It’s all been worth it to get to this day, this example for my family.”
These are the faces of Regent University’s 2019 graduates: Women and men of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who faithfully put their hand to the plow to accomplish their dream of adding “Regent University Graduate” to their story – and to look ahead to new possibilities.
Regent’s 39th Commencement, held on Saturday, May 11, 2019, conferred nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees – the largest in the university’s history – on its campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Faces bright, in spite of overcast skies, graduates proudly took their place on the university’s Library Plaza to enjoy their well-earned moment of honor.
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson welcomed the audience, recognizing parents and spouses of graduates as quiet heroes. “You are special,” he told them, acknowledging their investment of time, finance and teamwork to see academic dreams fulfilled.
Speaking to graduates and the strong legacy of alumni before them, he emphasized Regent’s calling to equip Christian leaders to change the world, confirming, “Guess what? We’re doing it!”
Chairman of Regent’s Board of Trustees Phil Walker took the stage next to commend the graduates for their hard work. Referencing Philippians 1:6, he encouraged them to embrace their roles as future leaders of communities, states and nations, being confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”
Dr. Ken Eldred, entrepreneur and investor, delivered the ceremony’s commencement address. Eldred is the founder and CEO of Living Stones Foundation, providing financial and strategic resources to projects that lead to self-sustaining kingdom-building ministries. Eldred’s entrepreneurial and venture investment success – including an internet business-to-business company valued as high as $40 billion – has been recognized by Forbes and by Silicon Valley.
Eldred recalled his early success at a Fortune 500 company. At age 27, he was put in charge of his company’s whole marketing team, acquiring all the responsibility and all the perks of this prestigious position. “What came next really rocked me,” said Eldred. Lying in bed the night of his promotion, Eldred’s mind raced for hours as he worked through every rung of the ladder he planned to climb until he finally reached the top. Then, in the quiet, this question weighted him: “Is that all there is to life? Is that it?”
What if he missed “it” because he failed to recognize his true purpose? What if he climbed the wrong ladder … on the wrong building … without the right foundation?
Eldred went on to share that only 10% of Christians know their life’s purpose, and far fewer follow it. “God has a purpose for you,” he said to the class of 2019. “Ephesians 2:10 tells us that ‘we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works …’”
He laid out three points:
- Each of us has a special purpose. We must figure out our assignment and do it.
- The price of carrying out God’s plan will involve fear. We’ll be tempted to see our purpose as impossible, foolish, and dangerous, but we must choose faith and courage that God will see us through.
- If you won’t do your assignment, someone else will. We are uniquely gifted and called, but if God has to go to a “Plan B,” He will.
Eldred challenged graduates to take time to search out their calling and write down their mission statement. “Take the diploma you received today for a job well done. Add to it the understanding of your purpose, and step into it. Then the Lord will make your life not just good, but truly great.”
Continuing with a challenge of faith, Robertson then charged the 2019 class to “open your mouth wide” that God may fill it, referring to Psalm 81. He encouraged the class to be bold in embracing their future and to honor the Lord with the magnitude of their requests.
“There are thousands who will tell you that you can’t do these things. Don’t listen to them. Open your mouth wide. Don’t be timid. Be bold! … With God, all things are possible” he said. “Dream big. Have big plans. That’s my charge to you.”
Lauren Dennis, for the College of Arts & Sciences, delivered the student response to the charge from the chancellor. She urged her class to operate in boldness but to recognize “a different kind of greatness” … that of service, identifying themselves with Jesus, the greatest servant of all.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riano presented the 2019 Chancellor’s Award to Associate Professor Gloria Whittico from the School of Law. Each year the award is presented to a faculty member who exemplifies a profound commitment to Regent and its mission.
School of Communication & the Arts alumnus Bruce Long ’01 was also honored as Alumnus of the Year. Long has produced on Broadway, off-Broadway and on London’s West End.
His affiliated productions have garnered four Tony Awards and two Olivier Awards, in addition to multiple nominations. Long is the founder of The Repertoire Fund, a $100M commercial theatre investment collective. His wife, Michelle, is also a Regent alumnus.
“When I came to Regent, life had kind of clipped my wings,” he said. “In hindsight, I see that Regent wasn’t so much a restoration project, but rather a new-construction project.” As a student, he learned to marry faith and art, theology and theatre, so that he could care for a “degenerative global culture.”
“At the intersection of faith and art, the Triune God is forming artists of faith charged with the regenerative work of global culture care. And I believe that the epicenter of this intersection is Regent University,” said Long.
He urged graduates to tap into that care by contemplating three powerful words: Silence, Beauty, and Improvisation. Silence to transition the mind, restore the voice and strengthen the entrance; beauty through truth, love, grace and forgiveness that breathe life into the soul; and improvisation to turn their tassels and then go “off script,” ready to say, “yes, and” to the unexpected, because of their confident partnership with God.
“And in all of that, walk humbly in your calling, and change the world,” Long concluded.
Following the special remarks, graduates were commissioned from Regent’s School of Business & Leadership, School of Communication & the Arts, School of Divinity, School of Education, Robertson School of Government, School of Law, School of Psychology & Counseling, College of Healthcare Sciences & School of Nursing, and College of Arts & Sciences.
Finally, came the words the graduates were waiting for: “Graduates, you may now flip your tassels!” And with that, a sea of green, blue and silver confetti burst from cannons, cheers and high-fives erupted, and a new chapter began for Regent University’s Class of 2019.
Regent University boasts more than 130 areas of study, delivered online and on campus to associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students from all 50 states and spanning 90 countries. In its 40-year history, Regent has graduated nearly 27,000 men and women representing 135 countries. Regent is listed among top National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, 2019. The institution is among only 4% of U.S. universities to receive NSA designation, National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. The School of Psychology & Counseling has received a 100% match rate for fourth-year Psy.D. student internships since 2016 and is one of only 24 universities nationally to receive an “A” rating for its comprehensive liberal arts core curriculum.