Cantaloupe and cottage cheese. Many people enjoy the dish for breakfast, but Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson ordered it for lunch in 1975 at the Grand Hotel across from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It was a simple, yet providential, meal that God would use to impact me, my family and countless others, literally, around the world.
You see, when Dr. Robertson bowed his head, giving thanks for his cantaloupe and cottage cheese, the Lord began to speak to him. “‘Build a school for My glory,’ and I said, ‘Yes, sir,’” Regent’s founder, chancellor and CEO remembers. “He impressed on me that it was to train people in areas that would most greatly impact society. We were going to have schools of law, government, education, theology and so forth, and especially a school of communications, where we could teach people how to do television.”
Things moved quickly after that coffee-shop lunch. Just three years later, on September 11, 1978, CBN University was born when seven faculty members began teaching 77 students in rented office space in Chesapeake, Virginia. Thanks to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s daily television program, The 700 Club, word spread far and wide about this “adventure in Christian education,” as Dr. Robertson still refers to it.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV
I first heard about a groundbreaking graduate university in Virginia Beach, Virginia, during my junior year at The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, New York. It was 1985, the pre-internet era. So, I turned to an “ancient” resource for help — a landline. A few phone calls later and a CBN University brochure and application were on their way to my parents’ house outside Boston, Massachusetts. Soon, I received word that I was accepted and began making plans to head south after earning my bachelor’s degree in the spring of 1987.
But around that same time, several prominent televangelists became engulfed in scandal. The media seemed to relish the opportunity to mock these men and women of faith, whose sin was laid bare before the world. I quietly wondered and worried that the Christian Broadcasting Network might be next. Late one night, while flipping through TV channels, I asked God, “Who’s going to care about a degree from CBN University?”
As soon as I finished that thought, my cable box stopped on The 700 Club. I saw Dr. Robertson introducing a guest on the program: CBN University student Antonio Zarro. His 1986 film, Bird in a Cage, had recently won the student Oscar for best picture from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Immediately, the Lord spoke to me: “If that school is good enough for the Academy, it’s good enough for you.” I arrived on campus in February of 1988.
Over the next 2 1/2 years, I worked hard to earn my master’s degree in communication, while making lifelong friends and learning life-changing skills. I developed and sharpened my news writing and producing “chops,” studying under one of the university’s original seven professors, Dr. Robert Schihl.
Studying and learning about communications, the media and the arts from a biblical perspective was an amazing experience. The professors were incredible, approachable and experts in their fields. My fellow students and I knew we were part of something very special.
During my final few months at CBN University, I learned that my graduating class would be a historic one. The school, almost 12 years old at that time, was changing its name, and the Class of 1990 would be the first to have “Regent University” on our diplomas.
That same year, Regent would play a huge role in orchestrating my introduction to the best and greatest blessing of my life: my beautiful wife Nancy. We met on campus and started dating when she was volunteering as a makeup artist on student films. We’ll be married 25 years this summer, and we have five wonderful children. Our two oldest — Ryan (’18) and Sarah (’20) — chose to pursue their undergraduate degrees at Regent, which now makes me a “legacy parent” at the university.
When Ryan walked across the Library Plaza on May 12 to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in cybersecurity, it was a surreal feeling. First, I couldn’t believe that the 22 years since he’d been born and the 28 years since I walked that same path had passed so quickly. Second, I was surprisingly overwhelmed by the joy and gratefulness I felt for a God who had ordered both of our steps so completely and lovingly. You see, Ryan has his own amazing story about how he came to Regent.
After graduating from a local Christian high school, Ryan accepted a scholarship to attend an area college that had direct ties to a prominent religious denomination. But after studying there for more than a year, he called me one day to discuss an important decision he was considering. “Dad, would you be OK if I transferred to Regent?” he asked. “I was sitting in the library today and realized that I don’t want to be here. I want to go to a real Christian college.”
My answer was a resounding, “Yes!” While I wouldn’t want to pressure any of our children to attend Regent, Nancy and I were thrilled to learn that Ryan and Sarah both felt God was leading them here. After all, I’d met the love of my life at this university. Also, the School of Communication & the Arts prepared me for a successful career that has taken me to six continents as a writer, copy editor, producer, and reporter with local and national news organizations and media ministries. Why wouldn’t I want to see my children blessed by Regent University the same way I have been?
After commencement ended and I tracked down Ryan, he commented on how “fantastic” and “well done” the ceremony had been. “Everything was amazing. I couldn’t have dreamed this up,” he said. “It’s very overwhelming but very exciting.” I told him that I understood exactly how he felt. Then, I explained why the legacy that our family shares with Regent is so important and so special. It’s the fulfillment of God’s promise that He will always watch over us. That He has a plan for us — a plan for good and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
My prayer for our son, our daughter and anyone associated with the university is that our rich legacy with Regent becomes their legacy. This university has become a very special and even a sacred place for us. But I know in my heart that Regent also wants to be that for other families, too — whether they attended in the past, are here now, or will attend in the future.
This verse sums up our family’s Regent University experience better than any other: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9, NKJV).