“I pray this class will stand for truth,” LU celebrates the class of 2023
Liberty University sent off the Class of 2023 into the world Friday evening, with a ceremony followed by fireworks.
Jonathan Falwell, campus pastor and newly appointed chancellor of the university, told students and families Friday evening, “we celebrate with you, we rejoice with you and tonight is going to be a special night.
“We recognize, more importantly, that the days ahead are far more important, and what you do through your life and through your ministry as Champions for Christ is what this university is all about.”
There was an estimated crowd of 60,000 people visiting campus this weekend for commencement ceremonies with more than 28,000 degrees conferred, 23,762 graduating through online programs according to a release from the college — 1,325 associate degrees, 11,242 bachelor’s degrees, 1,901 graduate certificates, 10,602 master’s degrees, 2,439 doctoral degrees, 1,200 Liberty Online Academy high school diplomas.
President Jerry Prevo was honored in his final commencement ceremony as the university’s president.
In honor of his service as a board member and president, Prevo was presented with an original bottle that came from the Donald Duck Bottling Company 67 years ago, which LU founder Jerry Falwell Sr. established as the original location of Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956.
“Thank you for helping us keep the vision alive,” Falwell said.
Prevo was also recognized as president emeritus, which is a status given to a president who has retired, honoring his service.
“Dr. Prevo, you are loved here on Liberty Mountain,” said Tim Lee, chairman of the university’s board of trustees.
Prevo began his address by acknowledging the 2023 graduates and all of the students at LU.
“We’ve been able to meet you, learn your name and where you’re from, and your ambitions and your dreams for the future. I must tell you that you are an extraordinary … exciting group of students,” Prevo said. “I believe you’re going to be world changers as you leave this place.”
Prevo encouraged graduates to do five things: never stop learning, be adaptable because life is unpredictable, be kind, never give up and remember your purpose.
“Congratulations and God bless you as you leave and go out to the world to be a champion for Christ,” Prevo said.
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told graduates in his commencement address, that when he graduated from college, he had “no idea” what God was going to do with his life.
He just made himself available to Him, and he urged graduates to do the same.
“If you will just make yourself available to God, you just watch what he is going to do,” Graham said.
He said his hope is this year’s graduates will be known as a class “that stood for truth in a world overflowing with wickedness and deception and lies.”
Graham said the world is changing and it has changed so much, since current graduates “set foot on campus” four years ago.
He mentioned the increase in violence and a moral decline, adding he can’t help but think the heart of God is “grieving as he looks at our world today.”
Graham said the world is on a downward spiral because it has turned its back on God, saying the world is portraying there is no such thing as absolute truth, and he challenged the graduating class to combat that.
“In a world overflowing with wickedness and deception and lies, I pray this class will stand for truth,” Graham said.
Graham ended his address by urging the graduating class to use their degree for “God’s glory, but more importantly hold up His banner of truth.”
“Know Him, trust Him, live for Him, lift Him up and I hope you’ll go forth today as his champion for Christ. May God bless each and every one of you,” Graham said.
Josh Phillips, who received his bachelor’s in music and percussion performance, said it’s exciting to graduate, and it’s been a long five years.
“It’s definitely been a long road especially with kind of COVID, coming right in the middle of it … but you know, it’s been super cool to kind of work through all that and come out on the other side successful,” Phillips said.
Lisa Glisson, who received a bachelor’s in business administration, said there was a lot of work just getting to graduation.
“It was so difficult. I was here during the COVID years, it was uncharted territory. It took a lot of extra work and determination, and I’m just so proud of myself and so proud of all my friends,” Glisson said.
Graduates Brantley and Bryant Sloan, brothers and two years apart, both graduated together Friday evening, both receiving a Bachelor of Science in commercial music.
Brantley Sloan said it’s a dream come true to graduate with his brother.
“I kept telling him, after we sat down, I kept saying ‘we made it, man we made it,’” Brantley Sloan said.
Bryant Sloan’s path to graduation was different from his brother’s, spending two semesters at the University of Georgia and taking a year off serving his local church. Bryant Sloan said he felt God told him to apply to Liberty, and after his mom urged him, he eventually applied.
He never imagined graduating with his brother.
“I feel like I’ve helped him take the jump to get here but he has literally been there the whole time, anytime I need help, which is a lot, he’s like ‘hey I got you.’ It’s just a blessing to be able to help each other out,” Bryant Sloan said.