Regent Celebrates Historic 41st Commencement
There were plenty of reasons to celebrate at this year’s virtual graduation ceremony—more than 30,000, in fact.
Not only was the Class of 2021 the largest graduating class in the history of Regent University with more than 2,500 graduates, but this year the university also celebrated its 30-thousandth graduate.
Regent alumna and campus ministries worship coordinator, Joy Windham, opened the historic 41st commencement ceremony with the singing of the national anthem. The ceremony was streamed from Regent’s beautiful Shaw Chapel, where Regent’s founder, chancellor and chief executive officer, Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson—joined by the deans and directors—opened with prayer, congratulations and some good news surrounding Regent University and the Class of 2021.
“I commend you, Class of 2021, for displaying resilience and fortitude during the difficult months leading up to this special day,” Robertson said. “You have shown remarkable tenacity and strength,
and your accomplishments are tremendous. I am so proud of you.”
Among the accolades Robertson shared, Regent is “among the fastest-growing Christian universities in the nation,” with an enrollment exceeding 11,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 100 countries. He also noted that U.S. News & World Report ranked Regent a top national university among colleges like Harvard, Yale and Princeton; and No. 1 in Virginia for best online bachelor’s programs. Additionally, Regent is one of only 23 universities nationally “A” rated for comprehensive liberal arts curriculum (American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2020-21).
On behalf of Regent’s board of trustees, Chairman Phil Walker offered students congratulations and encouragement.
“As graduates of the Class of 2021, please accept my heartiest congratulations as you celebrate a most significant accomplishment. Your degree represents hard work and dedication to a most worthy goal,” Walker said.
Robertson then introduced this year’s commencement speaker, the Honorable Michael Pompeo—a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, 70th U.S. Secretary of State and former Central Intelligence Agency director.
Apart from focusing on national security, technological leadership and global engagement at Hudson, Pompeo helped craft U.S. foreign policy during his time as Secretary of State and led a team that executed America’s largest-ever global repatriation effort in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point and is also a graduate of Harvard Law School.
“I want to join the chorus in congratulating the Class of 2021,” Pompeo said. “Well done—this is indeed a day to bask in the praise because you have certainly earned it.
“Life will offer you lots of ways to use your education to achieve personal success how you define it in your chosen professions. And it will also offer you chances to know far more lasting happiness by serving someone far greater than yourself or your self-interests: your God. Make the most of all your opportunities and remember that they are all given to you by God,” added Pompeo.
This year’s commencement theme was based on Philippians 4:13, which states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It’s a scripture that resonates strongly with Pompeo, who gave his life to Christ more than 40 years ago as a young cadet at West Point. Relying on God’s strength, following His path and fighting to protect our freedom of worship were core themes Pompeo touched on during his address to the graduating class.
“Our freedoms, particularly our inalienable right of religious freedom, are increasingly under attack,” shared Pompeo. “Each of you can meet those challenges, but you will not be able to overcome them without Christ. There’s not a chance.
“Every one of you will need the strength of Christ in you to achieve your goals and to live in a country where you can exercise your right to worship your God as you see fit,” he continued. “It will take all of you together—with believers—to protect our freedoms and to achieve your goals.”
For Pompeo, serving his country and his God have been enormous privileges he does not take for granted. These are privileges that future generations will need to guard and protect closely.
“Seven times, I raised my right hand and swore that I would defend America against all enemies: as a cadet, as a young cavalry officer, a handful of times as a congressman from Kansas, and then as the CIA director and 70th Secretary of State,” shared Pompeo. “Never forget that when I raised my right hand, my left hand was on a Bible.”
Pompeo concluded with a charge to the graduates to never forget the responsibility that they carry: “As you go out from this graduation to be a light yourself, you just never know when that moment will come, and you will make all the difference in the world to someone who is watching your character, your nature and your faith. Thank you for your good work here as students. All kinds of good things await you, and humanity is impatient for your service. Always remember Philippians 4:13 and take good care of that responsibility because everything depends upon it.”
Following the keynote address, Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, former executive vice president for Academic Affairs, recognized the outstanding students graduating with honors, including joint degree earners.
Robertson then issued the chancellor’s charge to the graduates of 2021.
“I’m thinking of the Apostle Paul who suffered so much … and yet he overcame things,” shared Robertson. “Paul said, ‘I have learned how to be abased, and I know how to abound. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”
“There will be times when you will be abased. There will be times when you may feel like you’re a failure. I want to charge you right now with the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’” exclaimed Robertson.
“I commend you, Class of 2021, for displaying 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.”
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson
Founder, Chancellor & CEO
Class of 2021 representative, Jessica Grove-Herrera, Ph.D. (SPC ’21), echoed Robertson’s remarks in her student reflection and response to the chancellor’s charge, adding: “Through this journey, I have learned that it isn’t the best, brightest or strongest individuals that God uses, but those who are willing. I can say with full confidence that this class is one of resilience and fortitude. We’ve been molded by our experiences; and have come out stronger, wiser and prepared for the tasks ahead of us.”
Alumnus of the Year, Dr. Kelly A. James (SPC ’11), also noted in her address that the graduating class was prepared for their calling and completely able to do all things. James earned her Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision from Regent in 2011 and was named the Top Mental Health Professional for 2019-20 by the International Association of Top Professionals. Her son is also part of this year’s graduating class.
“Sometimes, the hardest part is starting,” James said. “The Scripture says you can. ‘Can’ as a verb means having the ability, power or skill. Knowing that you can is the first step you have already taken, and now that you have finished your program, you have the skills and abilities to do all things.”
Deans and directors of Regent’s 10 schools then presented their respective graduates to Chancellor Robertson to confer degrees.
Immediately following Robertson’s pronouncement and congratulations, a sea of green, blue and white balloons descended from the chapel ceiling. Graduates watching online joined in the celebration with their confetti wands, which were mailed to them days before the event as part of a special graduation package.
Following Robertson’s closing benediction and singing of the Regent Song, the 41st commencement ceremony concluded with the reading of names. Each graduate’s name was read aloud, as it appeared on the screen accompanied by their photograph—reflecting a considerable effort on the part of Regent’s IT and media teams to make the virtual commencement a success.
In addition to the commencement ceremony, Regent also held virtual commissioning ceremonies the day prior. At the School of Communication & the Arts commissioning, professor and research fellow Dr. William Brown reiterated the theme of success through Christ alone, particularly in a year when the ongoing global pandemic significantly impacted many.
“It is God’s grace and favor that enabled us to accomplish all that we’ve accomplished despite the many challenges this past year,” shared Brown.
Similar words were echoed in a final message memorialized at the end of the printed commemorative program. The Class of 2021 was encouraged to remain steadfast in God’s calling for their lives:
“In the face of unprecedented global events and personal challenges, you have remained anchored in Christ. You are a living example of this year’s commencement declaration that, in Christ’s strength, you can do all things. Well done. Class of 2021, Regent University has prepared you well to lead with excellence, innovation and integrity. Now, continue to work hard, rise above adversity, keep God first—and go change the world.”