Regent Celebrates 40th Commencement
With a First-Ever Virtual Ceremony
It was a graduation ceremony like none other.
Regent University’s Library Plaza, typically filled with thousands of students, faculty, parents, and loved ones sat empty. Instead, graduates from across the nation and around the world gathered around their computers, phones and tablets to stream their first-ever virtual graduation and Regent’s 40th Commencement.
This historic online event drew an audience of over 50,000 as Regent welcomed nearly 2,300 graduates to the Regent Alumni family.
Following the national anthem, sung by Campus Ministries Worship Coordinator Joy Windham, a video montage of industry leaders congratulated graduates including: worship leader Kim Walker-Smith; former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (LAW & RSG ’89); American Center For Law & Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow (SBL ’04); Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham; Judge Ken Starr, J.D. (Ret.); former NFL linebacker Jason Carthen (SBL ’09); former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (LAW ’86); CBN President and CEO Gordon Robertson; and many more notable Regent alumni.
“These are difficult days that you are graduating into,” Sekulow said, “but we’re convinced at Regent that you’ve been trained for this purpose.”
Susan Bailey (SCA ’80), a member of Regent’s first graduating class (formerly CBN University), reflected on the history of the school and the significance of this year’s graduating class.
“When we arrived at Regent University, there was no campus. It hadn’t been built yet,” recalled Bailey. “But we knew in our hearts that God was doing something new — something dramatically significant. We were the pioneers. You are the proof of our faith. Now, upon your class will be built the future of Regent, this nation and the world.”
On behalf of Regent’s board of trustees, Chairman Phil Walker offered a video greeting of congratulations and encouragement. “As you go forth with a mission of Christian Leadership to Change the World, you’re about to join many Regent alums who are already having a major impact. I salute your accomplishments and challenge you to be leaders, knowing that the Scripture says you ‘are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’”
The commencement ceremony was streamed from Regent’s beautiful Shaw Chapel, where Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, Regent’s founder, chancellor and CEO, joined by all of the school’s deans and directors, opened with prayer and some good news surrounding Regent University and the Class of 2020.
“In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Regent University among top national universities, like Harvard, Yale and Princeton,” Robertson shared. “Regent is among the fastest-growing Christian universities in the nation, and our enrollment is nearly 11,000 with students from all 50 states and 90 different countries. Including this year’s graduates, we will have over 29,000 alumni. Our university is doing big things, and I’m so proud of each one of you,” said Robertson.
Robertson then introduced this year’s commencement speaker, Eric Metaxas — a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author whose biographies, children’s books and works of popular apologetics have been translated into more than 25 languages. Metaxas has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, and is also the host of a nationally syndicated daily radio show heard on 300 stations nationwide and aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
“He’s a personal friend, an incredible supporter of Regent University, and we’re honored to have him join us today remotely from his home in New York City — one of the hardest-hit areas in the COVID-19 virus,” added Robertson.
Metaxas began by encouraging the graduates that despite these unusual times, there is still reason to rejoice and embrace the calling of God on their lives.
Citing Romans 8:28 that states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Metaxas asked: “Do you believe it? Do you love Him, and are you called according to His purposes? Because if you do, then all things work together for good. The Lord has called you to this time.”
Metaxas discussed science’s role over the past several decades in making a case for the existence of God, and what it means for this year’s graduating class.
“The evidence for God has, over the years, become so overwhelming, that we can see now clearly it’s not a battle of logic, but it’s a battle of wills, and it’s a spiritual battle. God has called you to this battle.”
Above all, he encouraged graduates to view this season of difficult circumstances amid COVID-19 as an opportunity. “We now have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves in the pages of history going forward. The Lord Jesus has prepared you for this hour, and He will anoint you for this battle to His eternal glory!”
“When you go into this world as our graduates, I want you to know that there’s nothing that can come against you. No disease, no death, no COVID-19, no disaster … none of these things will deter you from the charge that you have.”
M.G. “Pat” Robertson, J.D.
Founder, Chancellor & CEO
Following the keynote address, Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, recognized the outstanding students graduating with honors, including those earning joint degrees.
Robertson then issued the chancellor’s charge to the graduates of 2020.
“The Apostle Paul, in writing about the troubles of his time said, ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors.’ You are facing a virus that has decimated the economies and the lives of everybody on this globe,” said Robertson.
“When you go into this world as our graduates, I want you to know that there’s nothing that can come against you. No disease, no death, no COVID-19, no disaster … none of these things will deter you from the charge that you have,” Robertson proclaimed. “I congratulate you on the achievement you have made of being a graduate of Regent University. My charge to you is very simple: Take your authority under the power of the Lord Jesus Christ … you are more than a conqueror.”
Class of 2020 representative Sabrina Estrella (RSG ’20), echoed Robertson’s remarks in her student reflection and response to the chancellor’s charge, adding: “We, the Class of 2020, never surrendered on this momentous goal … our education. I know we will overcome, because we have faith and we believe in God.”
Deans and directors from each of Regent’s 10 colleges and schools — including the newly formed College of Healthcare Sciences and the School of Nursing — then presented their respective graduates to the chancellor for the conferring of degrees.
Immediately following Robertson’s pronouncement and congratulations, a sea of green, blue and white balloons — along with confetti — fell from the chapel ceiling. Graduates were able to celebrate online with confetti and balloons, too, as these items were part of a special graduation package graduates received days before the event.
These packages also included a personalized card from Robertson, copies of the commencement program, congratulations banners, tassels, a commemorative keychain, a Regent Alumni window cling, and more.
Following a closing benediction by Robertson, and singing the Regent Song, the 40th Commencement ceremony concluded with the reading of names. Each graduate’s name was read aloud. As it appeared on the screen, the graduate’s accompanying photograph was displayed. This reflected a considerable effort on the part of Regent’s staff.
“Our I.T. and media teams, as well as countless other Regent teams, were eager to help make this year’s graduation extra special,” said Jonathan Harrell, assistant vice president of Information Technology. “We spent many hours and late nights preparing for this day because our graduates and their hard work matter immeasurably. We hope the Regent Class of 2020 knows that we are with them, cheering them on, and that they are world changers.”
In addition to the commencement ceremony, Regent held virtual commissioning services for all 10 colleges and schools the day prior. At the College of Healthcare Sciences commissioning, acting Dean William Hathaway, Ph.D., encouraged graduates to be change agents for the Kingdom, adding that God was present even in the midst of students and faculty being apart.
“Across distance, the power of God is just as effective, because God isn’t limited by things like location. God is equally present to you as He is to us now,” shared Hathaway.
In all, Regent’s historic virtual commencement was the culmination of months of concerted efforts to support students academically, spiritually and financially during this pandemic.
In the wake of the country’s declaration of a national emergency, Regent successfully transitioned all academic programs and operations online on March 16, with no lapse in education for students.
To meet the emotional and spiritual needs of students, alumni, and friends, faculty and staff reached out by phone, email, social media, and web-based video conferencing. The Regent team offer prayer, encouragement and valuable resources for navigating these challenging times. Efforts included: a Great Talks® series featuring leading scholars discussing how to traverse the challenges of COVID-19; online chapel and other ministry resources to students through Campus Ministries, such as the CM @ Home initiative; reaching alumni with support and prayers through the You Are Not Alone campaign.
Financially, Regent offered students living in on-campus housing a $500 rebate to assist with transition needs. The university set up a $250 Social Distancing Scholarship™ for new students pursuing online bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. And to honor and support healthcare workers, Regent established a $5,000 Healthcare Hero Scholarship™ for registered, licensed nurses serving amid the coronavirus pandemic who wished to enroll in Regent’s bachelor’s or master’s nursing program.
Additionally, Regent is freezing tuition for the 2020-21 Academic Year, allowing students to enjoy the same tuition rates as last year.
In a final message to graduates, memorialized at the end of the printed commemorative program, the Class of 2020 was given a lifelong challenge: You exemplify the heart and grit of true heroes and world changers. We believe in you, and we are praying for you. Now, continue to work hard, rise above adversity, keep God first — and go change the world.