America’s largest Christian university announced a new president and chancellor Friday, more than two years after then-President Jerry Falwell, Jr. resigned amid scandal.
The board of trustees for Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, unanimously appointed Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Dondi E. Costin, Ph.D., to serve as the institution’s sixth president and Pastor Jonathan Falwell to serve as its third chancellor. Falwell, the son of the school’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., and brother of Jerry Falwell Jr., previously served on the board.
“As one whose life and ministry have been profoundly shaped by Liberty University, I can think of no educational institution with more global impact than my two-time alma mater,” Costin, who earned two master’s degrees from the prominent Christian college during his military career, said in a statement. “I am beyond grateful to the Board for entrusting me with this extraordinary opportunity.”
“Vickey and I look forward to locking arms with the Liberty family as we honor the University’s past and drive toward its future,” he said, referring to his wife of more than 33 years. “With God’s help and for His glory, the very best days of our great University are still ahead of us.”
Costin, who most recently served as president of Charleston Southern University, obtained the rank of major general with the U.S. Air Force during 32 years of commissioned service. During that time, he represented the Liberty Baptist Fellowship as an endorsed chaplain, completing his military career at the Pentagon as Air Force chief of chaplains. In that role, he served as senior pastor to more than 664,000 service members in the U.S. and overseas and led 2,000 chaplains and chaplain assistants. His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal.
Jonathan Falwell, the new chancellor, will remain senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church while serving at Liberty, like his father, Jerry Falwell, Sr., did.
“With this transition we are recommitting our institution to its founding, and singular, mission:
Training Champions for Christ,” the new chancellor said. “I look forward to serving alongside our exceptionally qualified new president to impact more lives than ever before with Christ-centered education.”
Liberty University is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The trustees evaluated nearly 100 credible candidates over eight months for the presidential position, working with CarterBaldwin Executive Search, a recruiting firm. Jerry Prevo, a member of the board, served as president between Falwell Jr.’s resignation and Costin’s term.
“The combination of President Costin and Chancellor Falwell not only bring the gravitas and experience necessary to lead the University exceptionally well, but with perfect cultural alignment,” Board Chairman Tim Lee said. “They will ensure Liberty University remains focused entirely on Training Champions for Christ to impact the world in every vocation.”
Liberty has served as a bulwark for evangelical Christianity and the conservative movement in America. Jerry Falwell, Sr. proved instrumental in launching the Christian Right. Critics later faulted his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s, extremely close association with Donald Trump amid the Access Hollywood scandal in 2016, but that relationship enabled Liberty to impact the Trump administration.
Republicans have long flocked to Liberty to speak, and the university has hosted then-President George H.W. Bush; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; George W. Bush; then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; then-President Trump; and then-Vice President Mike Pence, among others.
In October 2022, Liberty convened more than 630 U.S. and African CEOs, political figures, and faith leaders to network and promote joint business opportunities for U.S. companies and African nations. Strengthening such ties may weaken the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on the continent.
Falwell Jr. resigned in August 2020 after Giancarlo Granda, a young Miami pool boy who became his business partner, said he had a years-long sexual relationship with Falwell Jr.’s wife, Becki Falwell. Granda claimed Falwell Jr. would participate as a voyeur.
Falwell Jr.’s leadership saw a massive expansion in the student body at Liberty and brought the university economic success.
Liberty University sued Falwell Jr. in 2021 for withholding details of the affair from the school while he negotiated his lucrative retirement package. Earlier this month, Falwell Jr. sued the school for withholding those retirement funds.
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