Regent University Celebrates Largest Graduating Class at 42nd Commencement Ceremony
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (May 7, 2022) – On Saturday, May 7, 2022, Regent University conferred 2,559 undergraduate and graduate degrees at its 42nd commencement ceremony—making the class of 2022 the largest graduating class in the school’s history.
The Honorable Glenn Youngkin, the 74th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, gave the keynote address. He was joined onstage by Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, the recipient of the 2022 Regent Alumnus of the Year Award.
“We were delighted to welcome Gov. Youngkin and Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears to Regent University to celebrate the Class of 2022,” said Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, founder, chancellor and CEO of Regent University. “It was a distinct honor that our graduates heard from the state’s highest officers—both highly distinguished and accomplished leaders and champions of strong values.”
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Regent returned to its traditional on-campus commencement format. Graduates from the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 were also invited to participate in today’s celebration. Regent graduates took their place on the university’s Library Plaza with faculty, staff, families, and friends cheering together for their well-earned moment of honor.
“In preparing for this year’s commencement, the excitement of returning to a traditional format was invigorating,” said Dr. William L. Hathaway, executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Regent University. “It was a great joy to witness the Regent community coming together in a collective place to celebrate the achievements of our graduates.”
The ceremony was also livestreamed online at regent.edu/commencement, YouTube and Facebook Live. Thanks to the power of online streaming and social media platforms, graduates and their friends and families could celebrate together in real-time. Go to Regent’s 2022 Commencement page to view a replay of the ceremony.
This year’s commencement verse was 1 Peter 2:9: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
OPENING CEREMONY WITH DR. ROBERTSON PRESIDING
The ceremony opened with the presentation of the colors and national anthem performed by the Regent Singers. Graduates, loved ones, faculty, and staff followed along using the 2022 Commencement Program as a guide.
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, founder, chancellor and CEO of Regent University, welcomed the crowd and those watching online to the ceremony. “We are honored to gather with you, graduates, along with friends and family from across the nation and around the world for this historic event, celebrating the Class of 2022.”
Robertson commended the graduates for their tenacity and strength while acknowledging their tremendous accomplishments. “We are so proud of you.”
Robertson then gave the invocation and highlighted these noteworthy things about Regent’s largest graduating class. Of the 2,559 degrees conferred, he shared:
- 504 graduates received a doctoral degree.
- 1,268 graduates received a master’s degree.
- 775 graduates received a bachelor’s degree.
- 31 graduates received an associate degree.
- Graduates came from 49 states and 19 different countries, including Australia, Botswana, China, Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines.
- 231 graduates had a perfect 4.0 GPA.
- 8 graduates received two degrees.
- The youngest graduate, 18-year-old Abigail S. Yoho, graduated from The Honors College with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
- The oldest graduate, 78-year-old Lois LaVonne Nicholson, graduated from the School of Divinity with a Doctor of Ministry.
GOV. YOUNGKIN’S COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
With much enthusiasm, Robertson introduced Gov. Glenn Youngkin—Regent’s 2022 Commencement Speaker—after speaking of the governor’s distinguished career and dedication to his faith and family.
“As a young man, Gov. Youngkin embraced hard work and responsibility to help his family when his father lost his job,” shared Robertson. “His determination to succeed earned him multiple basketball honors in Virginia and an athletic scholarship to college.”
After Youngkin earned an engineering degree at Rice University and his MBA at Harvard Business School, he landed a job at The Carlyle Group, playing a pivotal role in building Carlyle into one of the leading investment firms in the world. “His efforts have helped fund the retirements of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other frontline public servants and supported hundreds of thousands of American jobs.”
“Good morning!” said Youngkin. “How exciting is it to see the storm clouds part and the sunshine? I think maybe Dr. Robertson was praying a bit yesterday.”
Youngkin thanked Dr. Robertson for the invitation to speak. He then took a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of the chancellor’s beloved wife, Dede Robertson. “I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences, but also, we celebrate as well because we know she’s with the Lord. I also offer my profound appreciation for the example the two of you set for all these many years. Thank you for your tireless service to this community, to scholarship, and to the Kingdom of Christ.”
“To the students seated in caps and gowns, I extend my heartfelt congratulations.” Youngkin acknowledged their hard work, endless nights studying, time building friendships, and balancing life to reach academic success and how those things have culminated today “in this major life moment—this achievement.”
Youngkin also recognized families and loved ones who supported, encouraged and prayed for their graduates. He noted that because of this investment: “Today marks a giant milestone on the journey to the fulfillment of his or her dreams.”
“I want to talk about the world that awaits you—a world that needs you because you are graduating from Regent University, and you will change the world,” said Youngkin.
“There’s a rhythm in life defined by seasons, and for many of you, you will begin to turn the page of the season of school from a time of education and training to the application of knowledge and skill,” said Youngkin. “I can assure you, you will be working for others: a boss, customers, clients, students, patients, investors. We all are working for others—I have 8.6 million bosses, and I hear from many of them every single day.”
Youngkin talked about the reality of how life can get hard at times, it can be harsh, and career pressures often require family sacrifice. “There are always seasons of tribulation and seasons of triumph. Just remember, there are no diamonds made without pressure.”
Next, Youngkin challenged the graduates to remember two important tools during seasons of difficulty: mentors and a compass. He encouraged graduates to seek mentors for advice and guidance while understanding that your compass will point you “in the direction of sacred truth and those core values that define us.”
“As you chart your life, I just want to say that there’s a difference between living a successful life and living a significant life. Where does your compass point?” asked Youngkin. “Don’t be confused by what constitutes a rich life—it is all about finding significance and living according to your purpose.”
“You have each been divinely created for a purpose—unlock the mysteries of your gifts and you will unlock the purpose of your life,” said Youngkin. “Happiness is fleeting; finding purpose is truly satisfying. Seek your purpose and you will find happiness. Seek happiness and you will find neither.”
Youngkin closed his address by explaining that today not only comes with a recognition of achievement but with a responsibility to be disciples of Regent and its teaching. “So, remember who you are, and which way your compass points. Wise people will be on the journey with you. Remember who claims you: a holy and loving God.”
RECOGNITION OF HONORS & JOINT DEGREES
Following Youngkin’s address, Dr. William L. Hathaway, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, thanked the governor for his inspiring words and transitioned to recognition of honors, joint degrees, outstanding graduates, and Latin and military honors.
Hathaway then introduced R. Michael Thornton, a Doctor of Strategic Leadership graduate from the School of Business & Leadership, to give the Graduate Reflections.
In a passionate speech that brought tears to many, Thornton gave a powerful testimony of his life restored by God’s renewing of his mind and salvation through Christ Jesus. Now a pastor and college director, the charismatic doctoral graduate shared how he was once homeless, suicidal, and addicted to drugs for 10 years—some of his darkest moments.
“Ironically, I found my best moment in this dark season of my life. It didn’t come in the form of an idea, finding a new home, or finally getting a job. My best moment came in the form of a person. His name is Jesus. When I was utterly shattered in my mind, body, and soul, he met me right where I was. And he loved me right where I was. He changed my life,” said Thornton.
Thornton shared his thoughts on redemption and how God used education to heal his mind. He told his fellow graduates: “Redemption is God’s version of revenge. It’s when God makes the enemy pay you back for everything lost and stolen from you in previous seasons of your life.”
He encouraged his class to recognize that their ability to write, speak, think critically, debate, and lead are divine weapons that “pierce through the devil’s lies” and “establish God’s Kingdom in every square inch of society” before releasing a spiritual blessing over the Class of 2022.
LT. GOV. EARLE-SEARS ALUMNA OF THE YEAR REMARKS
Dr. Doris G. Gomez, dean of the School of Business & Leadership, was pleased to announce the 2022 Alumna of the Year: Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, the first female lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the first Black female elected to statewide office.
“This award was established in 2004 by the Regent University Office of Alumni Relations to recognize individuals who have gained unique distinction through their accomplishments and have brought positive change to the world through Christian leadership,” explained Gomez.
Before Earle-Sears (SBL ’03 | M.A. in Organizational Leadership) approached the lectern, Gomez spoke about the Regent alumna’s immigration to America from Jamaica at age six and her service to the U.S. Marine Corps. She mentioned her various appointments as the Vice President of the Virginia State Board of Education; presidential appointee to the U.S. Census Bureau as co-chair of the African American Committee; and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Gomez also shared that this former program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and VISTA volunteer is a trained electrician and successful businesswoman. “She’s most proud of her community work leading a men’s prison ministry and directing a women’s homeless shelter.”
Earle-Sears greeted the graduates after receiving the award from Dr. Gomez and Dr. Hathaway. She then looked over to Dr. Robertson, asking, “Do you see what you did because you obeyed?” She shared how the campus looked a lot different when she attended. She reminisced with amusing envy, pointing out various buildings: “That was a dirt path when I came here, and you had to step around the puddles. None of that was here. This was just about to be here. And I’m jealous.”
Referencing Regent’s campus, Earle-Sears said: “It’s looking good, it’s looking very good.” Adding, “This is what happens when you obey. Had Dr. Robertson not obeyed, Regent University would not be here.”
“That’s all the Lord wants to know: ‘Did you obey me?’” said Earle-Sears. “That’s all that matters.”
“I was almost never here because I never wanted to get another degree—I was done. I was satisfied, I had my bachelor’s,” shared Earle-Sears.
Earle-Sears shared how she was someplace where Regent had a table set up. Feeling bad about walking off, she graciously included her contact information. Regent then began contacting her about earning her master’s, which she repeatedly declined. It wasn’t until she asked God for a sign one day that forever changed her mind. “I was taking a different way home, and a voice said to me, ‘look up,’ and I looked up and there was a big sign, a billboard. The sign read: ‘Get your college degree at Regent University because you asked for a sign.’”
Earle-Sears then discussed the purpose of life. “I’ve always wondered, what’s the purpose of my life? Why am I here? And then I heard a pastor one day say, ‘Wonder no more. Isaiah 43:7 tells you.’” Adding, that the verse says God created us to glorify Him. “So, that’s it. You are here to glorify Him.”
Closing out her speech, Earle-Sears said: “I congratulate you. I honor you. I thank God for what you are going to do in this world. One final thing I want to leave you with is this: When I say ‘thank you,’ you say ‘Jesus,’” to which she chanted three times while the graduates replied in kind.
Hathaway returned to the lectern to thank the lieutenant governor for honoring Regent through her public service and transitioned to recognition of this year’s Chancellor’s Award recipient: Dr. Glenn Koonce, an associate professor and program chair within the School of Education.
“Dr. Koonce regularly receives outstanding teaching reviews from his students, exceeding a 97% course evaluation average during the past seven years,” explained Hathaway. “Students praise him for his grace, wisdom, and passion for training educational leaders for success and Christ-likeness.”
BOARD OF TRUSTEES GREETING & CHANCELLOR INTRODUCTION
Chairman of Regent’s Board of Trustees Phil D. Walker provided a greeting on behalf of the board, recognizing the Class of 2022 for their incredible achievements and offering heartfelt congratulations.
Next, Walker praised Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson for his role as founder, chancellor and CEO of Regent University and his extraordinary accomplishments before welcoming the beloved patriarch to deliver his message to the graduates.
“Robertson has achieved national and international recognition as a religious broadcaster, philanthropist, educator, religious leader, businessman, and author,” said Walker. “In addition to Robertson’s significant role at Regent, he is the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and founder of International Family Entertainment, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, American Center for Law and Justice, The Flying Hospital, and several other organizations and broadcast entities.”
Walker shared that Robertson and his late wife, Dede, have four children, 14 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren and noted these honors Robertson received for his humanitarian efforts:
- Lifetime Achievement Award, 25th Silver Anniversary Movieguide Awards, 2017
- Christian Broadcaster of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1989
- Man of the Year, Students for America, 1988
CHANCELLOR’S MESSAGE TO THE GRADUATES
Robertson shared that along with Regent’s Board of Trustees that they pray for each student and consider it an enormous privilege to be entrusted with helping students train and prepare for their careers. “We are grateful for the privilege you have extended to us to help you in your journey.”
Robertson said that when God called him to build a school for His glory that he couldn’t have foreseen what’s happening in the world today.
Robertson referenced the Book of Esther and told the graduates, as seen in Esther 4:14, that they have been called for “‘such a time as this.’” Adding, “We live in a perilous world. … The world is crying for an answer, and you have the answer. The answer is the power of God and the truth of the Holy Bible.”
“You have been chosen by God—you’ve come into the Kingdom for such a time as this. And I assure you, in today’s world, there is a crisis of massive proportions. You will go forth into this world, and you are going to change it,” said Robertson.
“This is your day of destiny—don’t take it lightly because God has brought you to this moment. The Holy Spirit of God is counting on you to change the world. God is calling you. Take your responsibility strongly,” urged Robertson.
Robertson charged the graduates “to go forth as Christian leaders to change the world.”
PRESENTATION OF GRADUATES & CONFERRING OF DEGREES
Each school presented their respective graduates for the conferring of degrees, and Robertson decreed: “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.”
CHARGE TO GRADUATES & BENEDICTION
“To the class of 2022, the class of 2021, and the class of 2020, we are proud of you, and we praise God for you. You are—and always will be—our Regent family,” said Robertson. “As Christian leaders, I charge you—go, change the world! Congratulations, graduates! You may now turn your tassels!”
In a tradition that Regent graduates anticipate: a flurry of confetti in Regent’s colors—blue and green—cascaded over the graduates while Joy Windham, Campus Ministries Worship & Discipleship manager, sang the Regent Song.
Dr. Joseph Umidi, executive vice president for Student Life, extended a heartfelt congratulations to the graduates and gave the closing benediction. He released the graduates as The Hilton Brass performed celebratory instrumental music for the recessional.
About Regent University
Founded in 1977, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with more than 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 in more than 150 areas of study including, business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University is ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for ten years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2022).