In the King James Bible, a simple yet profound verse appears word for word in both Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In these passages of Scripture, Jesus is telling believers to “invest” in heavenly things that are incorruptible and eternal — treasures that will last forever.
As a founding member of the school’s board of trustees, Bill Dooner, along with his wife Ellie, has “treasured” Regent University for nearly four decades. Before becoming a successful businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mr. Dooner battled alcohol addiction, but he’s been sober for more than 60 years.
“One of the basic principles in a popular 12-step program says if you don’t pay it forward, you’ll lose it,” he says. “So the only way you get to keep it is to give it away. I think paying it forward just means that you’ve been blessed by the grace of God.”
Since the school was founded as CBN University in 1977 and opened its doors in September 1978, the Dooners have been part of Regent’s history and legacy. When asked if their support for the university is one way they pay it forward, Mr. Dooner said, “That’s a real ‘yes, yes, yes’ answer.” He added, “Establishing the Dooner Scholarship Fund has been a real joy because we’ve had so many students go on to become judges, principals, top lawyers and Bob McDonnell, who became the governor of Virginia.”
Mrs. Dooner says Christ has called each of us to help others, no matter what situation we find ourselves in: “Whether it’s to be kind to somebody on the street or smile at someone at the grocery store. Because we have been given so much and we feel so blessed, Bill’s favorite saying is, ‘I can’t out-give God.’”
“Maybe other people thought we were chasing after too big a dream, but not Pat,” Mr. Dooner remembered. “In an entrepreneurial way, my mind said all of this can happen. We just had to remain faithful, and we did.”
Asked to share what she finds the most satisfying and inspiring about Regent, Mrs. Dooner cited the school’s diligence in staying on track: “Name a university that’s still on track. There aren’t many. Look at the Yales, the Harvards and the Princetons. They got off track. The enemy got ahold of them.”
She adds that her greatest love for the university is the way Regent’s founder, chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson strives for excellence: “Everything is first class here because God is first class.”
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
— Matthew 6:21
The Dooners have been married for nearly 60 years. In that time, they have been behind dozens of philanthropic efforts. Their newest “adventure,” a treatment center for 100 homeless women struggling with substance-abuse issues, shows they have no intention of slowing down. “It’s going to be a facility with a 12-step, peer-mentoring program,” Mrs. Dooner explained. “And it’ll be for as long as they have to stay for women who have no other place to go. They don’t need insurance; they don’t need anything.”
She continued, “We’re going to teach them life skills: cooking, knitting, sewing, etc. We’re going to teach them trade skills: banking, cosmetology, computers, etc. We’re going to partner with trade schools in Memphis and offer GED programs so they can get their high school diploma.”
“My wife and I both find it’s a way of paying it forward,” Mr. Dooner added. “We bought the property recently, and we’re doing all of our homework at this stage and looking forward to breaking ground one of these days soon.”
James Gregory is a 2009 graduate of Regent Law and a current member of the university’s board of trustees. Vice president and general counsel for SJ Strategic Investments in Bristol, Tennessee, he says it’s a privilege to give back to the university because of what the school gave him: “While the Lord has blessed me to be able to pay it forward through financial gifts to Regent University and other Christian charitable works, I have also been able to use the legal education I received at Regent to help those organizations.”
Gregory adds that his law degree has enabled him to donate many hours of legal advice on behalf of Christian ministries, military chaplains and worldwide orphan care: “In the summer of 2001, I was fortunate to accompany my father (John Gregory) on a trip to India and the continent of Africa to view orphan-care centers that his foundation had helped over the years. On that trip, I was confronted with true poverty and felt the importance of James 1:27, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.’”
A faithful and generous supporter of the College of Arts & Sciences’ bio-physics lab and scholarships for the School of Law, Gregory and his wife Marsha understand how important it is to empower deserving students to attend the university. “It also has been my privilege to provide internship grants to the Regent University School of Law’s Center for Global Justice,” he explains. “These grants have allowed Regent Law students to receive internships all around the world and work on a variety of different issues such as religious liberty, child protection and fighting human trafficking. The letters I have received from the students participating in these internships describe the tremendous impact the experience has in their lives.”
Gregory insists that the entire Regent community is “uniquely equipped” to pay it forward. He says the high quality of education and biblical principles instilled in all who attend the university empowers them to carry out that important charge: “Many Regent alumni and students will find themselves in leadership positions where they will have an opportunity to have a positive impact on many individuals. It is important that we do not squander these opportunities and (instead) show ourselves to be a light of kindness and generosity.”
A 1983 graduate of the School of Education, Jeff Curtiss believes in giving back to Regent. With his wife, Annette, Curtiss established an endowed scholarship in the School of Education and, this year, established a scholarship at Regent Law for deserving students involved with the school’s Center for Global Justice. He is a firm believer in giving back to Regent because scholarships made it possible for him to attend the university in its early days.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
— James 1:27
Curtiss told Impact that he pays it forward by donating financially and volunteering his time to several organizations corresponding to key areas of importance in his life: faith-based educational institutions, animal-cruelty prevention, the fine arts and cancer charities. From his pay-it-forward experiences, Curtiss says he receives satisfaction and inspiration.
“I have endowed a scholarship in Regent’s School of Education in the name of two very dear people,” he explains. “It currently funds scholarships to students on an annual basis. I receive letters of thanks from the recipients including how the assistance helps their calling as educational leaders. I know these folks will go on to touch many lives, and they, in turn, will also pay it forward.”
When asked why it’s important for Regent alumni, students and friends to embrace that concept as believers and Christian leaders to change the world, Curtiss provided a simple response: “It’s an honor. By this I mean that paying it forward is a result of God saying to me, ‘I have blessed you many times. How would you like the honor of blessing others through me?’”
Jeff and Annette Curtiss’ annual scholarship through the School of Law is given to a student working in the area of global justice: “This is a direct result of my wife’s passion and quest for social justice for vulnerable women and children.” Both of the Curtiss’ endowed scholarships enable them to leave a legacy of leadership that touches the lives of not just two people per year, but hundreds of lives for eternity.
“As people of faith we need to stand in the gap for one another while providing strength, calmness and love for others who may not share our faith,” Curtiss says. “Annette and I strongly believe that paying it forward brings into the world much-needed hope, encouragement, kindness and love.”
To learn how you can support Regent University with your donation of cash, securities, annuities, trusts, bequests and other gifts of equity or property, please visit regent.edu/give or call 800.335.4409.