On May 6, thousands gathered under blue skies at the Regent Library Plaza to celebrate the university’s 43rd annual Commencement. During this culminating event, the university conferred 2,479 associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees to graduates from 49 states and 17 countries.
The ceremony began with a procession of graduates entering the plaza and taking their assigned seats to the playing of “Pomp & Circumstance.” The Regent Singers then led those gathered in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After a welcome message and invocation led by Executive Vice President for Enrollment Services Claire Foster, she introduced the 2023 Commencement speaker and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Nikki R. Haley.
The former South Carolina governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump began by congratulating the graduates for their achievements. Haley then told the Class of 2023 that, as “leaders in the truest sense,” they would play a crucial role in shaping the future of the United States by urging “our society to follow the Truth.”
“Family, freedom, and, most of all, faith are the building blocks of a life well lived,” Haley said. “They’re also the essential foundation of America. We need these values to survive if we want our country to thrive. And we’re counting on you to stand for what’s right.”
She continued, “This is the most important lesson I can convey: Your generation is the most important in American history. What you do will decide whether our country slides downward, toward division and loss of purpose, or moves upward, together, in pursuit of our timeless promise…In many respects, the challenges we face as a society have never been greater, but our capacity to overcome them is greater still.”
Family, freedom and, most of all, faith…are the building blocks of a life well lived.
Ambassador Nikki R. Haley
Haley’s inspiring speech ended with this challenge to the Class of 2023: “God has destined each of you for great things, and I firmly believe that, with His help and your hard work, America’s greatest days are still ahead…You’ve spent the last few years preparing. As graduates of Regent University, you are uniquely ready to fulfill your calling, and I have faith you will help renew our country.”
Commencement continued with Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William L. Hathaway recognizing outstanding graduates, undergraduate Latin honors recipients, military service members, and veterans, as well as graduates who received joint degrees. Hathaway then invited the student speaker from the Class of 2023 to deliver the
In his remarks,” Eric J. Frederick, a Ph.D. graduate from the School of Communication & the Arts, reflected on the blessing that Regent University has been to him and his family. Frederick also shared a communication technique for enjoying Jesus every day, which he insists is a quality of every effective Christian leader: “Daily, constant sharing.”
“Communication is at the heart of every meaningful relationship,” Frederick insisted. “Regent University has played an enormous role in shaping me to lead others to how we can communicate with Jesus on a daily basis. Changing the world as a Christian leader means drawing others to the beauty of Christ, and that involves enjoying the shared nuances of His life.”
Next, Dr. Simon Tarr, Director of the School of Communication & the Arts and the Dean of the Honors College, introduced Regent University’s 2023 Alumnus of the Year, George Thomas, a senior international correspondent and
co-anchor for CBN News, graduated from the School of Communication & the Arts in 1995. (See page 13 to learn more about the Alumnus of the Year.)
Established by the Regent University Office of Alumni Relations in 2004, the Alumnus of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have gained unique distinctions for their accomplishments and brought positive change to the world through Christian leadership. Thomas was honored for his nearly 30 years of traveling the world as a television journalist for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
In addition to his impressive resume, which includes reporting from more than 100 countries, Thomas brought to the podium an infectious enthusiasm and entertaining sense of humor. Almost instantly, his speech generated laughter and applause from the thousands gathered at the Regent Library Plaza.
“What took you guys so long?” Thomas quipped. “How many more wars did you want me to cover? How many more times did you want me to cheat death? How many more countries did you want me to travel to? Or for that matter, how many more close calls with terrorists or oppressive regime authorities did you want me to encounter before you decided I was deserving of the title ‘Regent University Alumnus of the Year’?”
On a much more serious note, he said: “In the last 27 years, I’ve gained a front-row seat to some of the biggest international news events of our time. From covering wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria and the Gaza Strip to the recent conflict in Ukraine, where I spent three months crisscrossing the country during the height of the war, the Lord continues to honor and fulfill my dream.”
Speaking directly to the graduates, Thomas added, “I urge you to dream. Dream big. Don’t limit yourself. Dream the impossible. We serve a mighty and powerful God who has made us ‘more than conquerors.’ Not because of the academic accolades you receive here today. Not because of your gifts, your talents, or how smart you are. You are ‘more than conquerors’ because of our Savior Jesus Christ!”
After Thomas left the podium to a standing ovation from graduates, Dr. Hathaway returned to announce the winner of the 2023 Chancellor’s Award. Regent Law Associate Dean and Professor S. Ernie Walton was recognized for his extraordinary support of Regent University’s mission and his contributions to the graduates’ success.
Phillip Walker, chairman of Regent University’s board of trustees, then took to the lectern to share a greeting to graduates. He congratulated the Class of 2023 for their “significant accomplishment,” which represents “hard work and dedication to a most worthy goal.”
After his greeting from the Board of Trustees, Walker introduced Mr. Jack E. Shaw, a member of Regent’s prestigious Society of the Crown & Shield. Mr. Shaw received an honorary Doctor of Law degree to recognize him and his wife Jane for their decades of friendship and significant contributions to the university. Shaw Chapel, Regent’s center of worship, prayer, and spiritual life, bears their name.
Shaw, a successful businessman, investor, author, state legislator, and philanthropist, told the Commencement crowd, “I share the great joy of being a part of the Regent University family.” Noting that the coronation of King Charles III was occurring at the same time as Commencement, Shaw added:
“I believe what is happening today in Virginia Beach on the campus of Regent University at this very hour will influence the world…more than the coronation of a king.”
Shaw issued this challenge to the Class of 2023: “You’re commissioned to share what Jesus has done for you. I ask all of us—myself and each one here—What will we do to be obedient to Jesus Christ?”
…You’re not supposed to only win the battle. You are to take the land. And my charge to you is this: ‘Take the land.’ It belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to Satan. It belongs to you—God’s wonderful people.
Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson
After Shaw thanked Regent University’s Founder, Chancellor, and CEO, Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, for building a school for God’s glory “that will never be ashamed of Jesus Christ,” each of the deans presented their graduation candidates, so Dr. Robertson could confer the degrees. With the Chancellor’s next words, “You may now flip your tassels,” air cannons showered the Commencement crowd with a spectacular display of blue, green, and silver confetti.
Regent’s founder, chancellor, and CEO then brought the ceremony to a close with his charge to the graduates. Based on the Class of 2023’s commencement verse, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NKJV), Robertson told the university’s newly minted alumni:
“It isn’t enough to be a conqueror. We win in Jesus, but He wants us to take possession of the land. And so, as we’re here this day, I want to urge you that you are more than conquerors. You’re not supposed to only win the battle. You are to take the land. And my charge to you is this: ‘Take the land.’ It belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to Satan. It belongs to you—God’s wonderful people.”
These graduates are going forth to change the world. But without the faithful prayers and generous support of friends and donors, it would be impossible to equip the thousands of World Changers who answer God’s call to attend Regent University.
This school, “built for God’s glory” more than 45 years ago, will continue preparing current and future classes of communicators, teachers, lawyers, politicians, ministers, missionaries, business leaders, medical professionals, and other Christian leaders. Look for the Class of 2023 to become “more than conquerors” in every sphere of influence the Lord has called them to serve.