Regent University Celebrates Largest Graduating Class at 41st Commencement Ceremony
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (May 8, 2021) – On Saturday, May 8, 2021, Regent University conferred over 2,500 undergraduate and graduate degrees at its 41st commencement ceremony—making the class of 2021 the largest graduating class in the school’s history. The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo, 70th United States Secretary of State, gave the keynote address.
Regent graduates gathered online with family and friends from all over the world to watch the livestream broadcast of the 2021 commencement ceremony. More than 100,000 viewers joined the celebration on the Regent University website, YouTube, and Facebook Live. Thanks to the power of online streaming and social media platforms, graduates and their friends and families celebrated together in real-time.
“In preparing for this year’s commencement, we leveraged cutting-edge technology and online platforms to celebrate the class of 2021 with utmost concern for the health and safety of our graduates and their loved ones,” said Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “Virtual broadcasting tools and social media gave us a place where we could celebrate together safely. We eagerly anticipate the day when we can all celebrate on campus once again.”
Celebratory graduation packages were sent to the class of 2021 a week in advance. Each package included a confetti wand and balloons along with keepsakes like a personalized card from the chancellor, copies of the commencement program, a graduation tassel, a pennant banner, a commemorative keychain, and more. Students were encouraged to share special moments on social media using the hashtag #RegentGrad2021.
Terrion Smith (SOE, ’21) was the first to post to #RegentGrad2021. He uploaded a copy of his Master of Education degree, with a reminder to his future self, which embodies characteristics of a Regent grad: “Self, continue to stay humble and grow in your art! Continue to ask questions, network, be the best you, keep your head in it and inspire the future generations of college students to come! Remember, you were once in their shoes.”
Janie Poore (DIV, ’21), who earned her M.A. in Apologetics & Cosmogony said, “As a new Regent University graduate, I feel more prepared than ever to share the Gospel with the world. You can truly do whatever you put your mind to—God will help you through it.”
“My mom was my biggest inspiration and taught me to hold fast to my faith and persevere. Before she died, she made me promise to complete my degree. Earning my M.A. in Theatre is a fulfillment of that promise,” shared Brittney Crayton (SCA, ’21).
The ceremony opened with the presentation of the colors and national anthem performed by Regent alumnae and Campus Ministries worship coordinator Joy Windham. Graduates, loved ones, faculty, and staff followed along in the ceremony using the 2021 Commencement Program as a guide.
Next, notable alumni, faculty, and friends of Regent offered encouraging messages:
- Hon. Michael R. Pompeo, 70th United States Secretary of State
- Dr. Jay Sekulow (SBL ’04), Chief Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice
- Gordon Robertson, President and CEO, Christian Broadcasting Network
- Hon. Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor-President, Baton Rouge, LA
- Franklin Graham, President & CEO, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
- Hon. Bobby Dyer (SBL’01), Mayor, Virginia Beach
- Bryan Stephens, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber
- Dr. Mark Jumper, President of Faculty Senate, Regent University
- David Bernd, CEO Emeritus, Sentara Healthcare
- Dr. Kelly James (SPC ’11), 2021 Alumnus of the Year
- Bruce Long (SCA ’01), Tony Award-Winning Producer/CITA Executive Director
- Anthony Swann (SOE ’14), 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year/Gov. Northam Appointed State Board Education Sitting Member
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, founder, chancellor and CEO of Regent, gave the invocation from Regent’s Shaw Chapel and welcomed the online audience. He commended the Class of 2021 for their resilience and fortitude during the difficult months leading up to this special day: “You have shown remarkable tenacity and strength, and your accomplishments are tremendous. I am so proud of you.”
“Let me begin with some great things about this year’s graduating class and the university as a whole,” Robertson said. Notable mentions included:
- The class of 2021 is the largest graduating class in the history of Regent—with over 2,500 graduates.
- This year, we have the special honor of celebrating our 30-thousandth graduate.
- Regent is among the fastest-growing Christian universities in the nation.
- Enrollment exceeds 11,000 students from across the United States and over 100 countries.
- Regent is ranked a Top National University by U.S. News & World Report, among colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
- Regent is ranked the #1 Online Bachelor’s Degree in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report—for nine years in a row.
- Regent is one of 23 universities nationally “A” Rated for a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
- Military Times has ranked Regent among the Top 10 “Best for Vets” colleges.
- The National Security Agency has designated Regent University as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education for the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program through 2023.
- PreLaw Magazine awarded the School of Law an “A” rating and placed the School of Law among the Top 18 in the Nation for Trial Advocacy.
- The School of Law currently ranks #1 in Virginia and #14 in the nation for judicial clerkships for the Class of 2020.
- Regent’s undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program has been named among the top in the country, receiving an “A” rating by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
- The Master of Science in Nursing program received a five-year accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in 2020.
Chairman of Regent’s Board of Trustees Phil Walker provided a greeting on behalf of the board, recognizing the Class of 2021 for their incredible achievements and offering a heartfelt congratulations.
Robertson returned to the lectern and introduced the keynote speaker, the Hon. Michael R. Pompeo.
A man of deep and abiding faith, Pompeo is a highly distinguished and respected leader who has championed military, national security, and foreign policy throughout his career. Having left his role as CIA director to serve as the 70th United States Secretary of State (2018-21), Pompeo is a veteran U.S. Army officer and former U.S. House of Representatives member (2011-17). Pompeo graduated first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he majored in engineering management. He also received his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
“Life will offer you ways to use your education, industry and intelligence to achieve personal success in your chosen professions,” Pompeo shared. “It will also offer you chances to know far more lasting happiness by serving someone greater than your self-interest: your God.”
Pompeo emboldened the Class of 2021 to make the most of their opportunities and to remember that chances are given by God, citing Proverbs 16:9: “…in their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Forewarning of the challenges ahead, “as followers of Christ,” Pompeo offered advice on how to be an overcomer. He pointed to this year’s commencement theme gleaned from Philippians 4:13, saying: “Notice that promise isn’t ‘I can do all things myself.’”
In order “to achieve your goals and to live in a country where you can freely exercise your right to worship God,” Pompeo emphasized, “you will need the strength of Christ in you.”
Pompeo also shared some professional experiences through his Christian leadership lens, including daily disciplines at work. When he arrived at the state department daily, he would use “the time it took to ride the elevator” to his office in prayer, “asking for God’s wisdom and help.” Adding, he “kept an open Bible” on his desk to remind him of “the importance of His Word as a light to my path.”
Pompeo acknowledged that “it’s been a privilege of a lifetime” to serve as a military veteran and servant leader. Seven times he’s taken a sworn oath, vowing to “defend America against all enemies.” He explained his sole focus has been to champion the values established by America’s founding fathers. Those principles are something he believes “every generation must honor” and “each one of us has a responsibility to stand up” and preserve.
Pompeo stressed the fundamental right of a free society is the free practice of religion. He noted places in the world where people of faith are persecuted for “worshipping God in their way” and how we must defend religious freedom. He reminded his listeners that people have died to protect our freedoms.
Adding, “Every one of us must strive to live a life worthy of those freedoms and the sacrifices made on our behalf. We must cherish our freedom, particularly our religious freedom, not just for the opportunity it provides us, but for the goodness of living a life in accordance with God without oppression.”
Pompeo advised never to give in when the world tells you to “compromise your values.” He encouraged Regent graduates to concentrate on where liberty is rooted: “Focus on those small places where family, friends, church, and local schools all come together. It is central to the conception of America our founders laid out. Never give an inch in the small places because it will prepare you for the big places.”
Pompeo ended his address by encouraging graduates to shine their light while underscoring that our country, world, and humanity await their service. “Always remember Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Take good care of that responsibility. Everything depends on it.”
Moreno-Riaño thanked Pompeo for his inspiring words and transitioned to recognition of honors, joint degrees, outstanding graduates, and Latin and military honors. Robertson then gave a charge to the graduates and introduced Jessica Grove-Herrera, who received her Doctor of Psychology degree, to give graduate reflections and a response to the chancellor’s charge.
“The path didn’t look like what we thought it would in the beginning. It took twists and turns that were challenging. But in the end, we found that we could face our challenges head-on,” explained Grove-Herrera. “We found that we were strong because God goes before us and carries us. And when things tried to threaten our resolve, we learned to rest knowing that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”
Afterward, each school presented their respective graduates. Moreno-Riaño then invited all degree candidates to prepare their confetti: “Mr. Chancellor, I present to you the candidates for the Regent University graduating Class of 2021!”
“By the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees and upon the recommendation of the faculty, I confer upon you the degree appropriate to your field of study and level of attainment, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities thereto pertaining,” decreed Robertson.
Amid a flurry of confetti and balloons dropping from the ceiling of Shaw Chapel, Robertson extended a heartfelt congratulations to the graduates. Windham then returned to sing Regent, Host of Faith & Learning—the university’s official song.
After giving the benediction, Robertson closed the commencement ceremony and joyfully exclaimed: “And now the reading of names!”
Photographs of graduates accompanied individual names as they were read aloud. Graduates were prepared to capture the moment their name and photograph appeared on the screen, using the commencement program as a guide.
About Regent University
Founded in 1977, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with over 11,000 students online and on campus in Virginia Beach, VA. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study, including business, communication and the arts, cybersecurity and technology, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing and healthcare, and psychology. Regent University tops the list of Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Virginia and is ranked among top national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Along with a commitment to academic excellence, what sets Regent apart is its mission to prepare Christian leaders to change the world.