On Saturday, May 3, an academic sea of caps, gowns, hoods and the graduates who earned them processed through the Library Plaza on Regent University's campus in Virginia Beach, Va.
There, more than 1,400 representatives from Regent's eight schools crossed the threshold from the role of student to alumni at the 2014 commencement ceremony.
Following the National Anthem sung by Cassidy and Tess Parroco, and "Great is Thy Faithfulness" led by Regent's worship team and Rev. Jason Peaks, Regent's founder, chancellor and CEO, Dr. M.G. "Pat" Robertson, greeted the class of 2014, and the 7,000-member crowd who cheered them on through the ceremony's opening.
"This is a glorious time and a glorious day," said Robertson, announcing with joy that this year's ceremony honors the largest number of graduates in Regent's entire history.
Daniel Sellers, chairman of Regent's board of trustees, greeted the graduates and their loved ones. He said that he believes the "sun never sets" on Regent, because he has witnessed so many Christian leaders make an impact on the world.
"On this momentous occasion, I see the hope of our nation, and I see a vision for a bright future," said Sellers. "Remember, the prayers, blessings and support of the Regent family will always be with you."
Benjamin S. Carson Sr., M.D. (pictured), emeritus professor of Neurosurgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine was the ceremony's keynote speaker. Carson is perhaps, best-known for pioneering the first successful separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins in 1987—a result of his pursuits of his childhood desire to become a doctor.
"There is a reason God gave us the capacity to dream," said Carson. "Because even if it seems as if those dreams will not come to pass, they are what give you the drive when everything seems to be falling apart."
Carson recalled a time in his personal history when his family was broken as the result of his parent's divorce. However, his mother persevered, holding onto several jobs to avoid needing welfare, and encouraging her sons to read often and learn on their own. The discipline Carson acquired as a result is what spurred him forward from being the classroom "dummy" to becoming the star pupil.
"The most important thing she did for us was to not accept excuses," said Carson. He explained that individuals who take responsibility for their actions and failures are more inclined to success.
"People who don't achieve a lot have a lot of excuses about everything and don't become problem-solvers," said Carson. "We're better than this."
Carson challenged his listeners to spend a half an hour a day focused on learning something new. "I guarantee you that in a year's time people who haven't seen you in a while won't recognize you, you will be so knowledgeable," he said.
Knowledge, according to Carson, is a "formidable foe to falsehood, and a formidable friend to truth." However, Carson also explained that courage must accompany knowledge in order to have a leading impact on the nation and the world. He asked his audience to reflect on the accomplishments of America's founders, who risked their lives in order to ensure a bright hope for tomorrow.
"Don't let the words of the National Anthem roll off of your tongue," said Carson. "Remember that it is impossible to be free if you are not brave."
Following Carson's address, Robertson offered a charge to the graduates. He encouraged them to reflect on the Old Testament passage of Jeremiah 29:11, being confident that God promises to "prosper and give hope and a future."
"You are prepared; don't be afraid. I want you to recognize that when you leave here today that you walk out into the hand of God," said Robertson. "Say with confidence, 'We're going to go forward!' and let's change the world we live in to bring forth those principles that will guarantee success."
Communication & the Arts graduate Elizabeth M. Litwak responded to the chancellor's charge on behalf of the class of 2014.
"As students, we all chose to come here for a reason. Hopefully one of those reasons was to learn something, perhaps to walk alongside distinguished professors, eventually landing a job," she said.
Litwak reminded her peers of the students of Galilee, who would be so submerged in following their teachers, that they would become dirtied with the dust of their Rabbi's feet. She encouraged her fellow graduates to follow Christ in the same light.
"So what will you do? Your training is complete. Are you willing to follow Jesus closely?" asked Litwak. "If you are, the future might look a little different than you think."
Following the keynote address, Dr. Paul Bonicelli, Regent's executive vice president, presented the annual Chancellor's Award to Dr. Mary Manjikian, associate dean of the Robertson School of Government (RSG) and RSG's University Accreditation Faculty Leader. Manjikian was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Durham University's Institute of Advanced Study, and has published three books and several articles in distinguished peer-reviewed journals.
Chancellor Robertson then announced Kevin Turpin '01 (School of Divinity) as the recipient of the 2014 Alumnus of the Year award. Turpin serves as the associate pastor of New Life Providence Church in Virginia Beach, Va. Throughout his ministerial calling, Turpin founded the Life Enrichment Center of Norfolk. The nonprofit organization serves at-risk adults and youth by advocating for literacy, mentoring and outreach programs for members of the Hampton Roads community. He currently serves as director for the organization.
Following these recognitions, graduates from each school crossed the platform to begin the next stage of their lives as leading world-changers. Regent University wishes a heart-felt congratulations to all of its 2014 graduates.