Liberty University appoints new president, chancellor over 2 years after Falwell Jr.'s resignation

The Freedom Tower at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. | Liberty University

The board of trustees for Liberty University has unanimously appointed retired Maj. Gen. Dondi E. Costin as its new president and Pastor Jonathan Falwell as chancellor.

In a statement emailed to The Christian Post Friday, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based Evangelical institution stated that Costin, the former president of Charleston Southern University, and Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and son of Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr., will assume their leadership roles in advance of the 2023-2024 school year.

"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," said Costin.

"[My wife] Vickey and I look forward to locking arms with the Liberty family as we honor the University's past and drive toward its future. With God's help and for His glory, the very best days of our great University are still ahead of us."

Falwell, whose late father founded Liberty in 1971, said he looks "forward to serving alongside our exceptionally qualified new president to impact more lives than ever before with Christ-centered education."

"With this transition we are recommitting our institution to its founding, and singular, mission:
Training Champions for Christ," Falwell said.

Liberty University President-designee Dondi Costin speaks during a press conference at Liberty University. Seated to his right is Chancellor-designee Jonathan Falwell. | Liberty University

While serving as chancellor of Liberty, Falwell will remain lead pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, a Lynchburg congregation where his late father also served as senior pastor.

Interim President Jerry Prevo, a former chair of the school's board of trustees who took over as president in 2020 following the resignation of former President Jerry Falwell Jr., will transition to the role of president emeritus. 

A former general in the U.S. Air Force and military chaplain, Costin led Charleston Southern University, a private Christian university located in South Carolina, during a period of enrollment growth and campus expansion. Costin oversaw the construction of several new on-campus buildings and the expansion of CSU's academic programs.

According to the Liberty announcement, CSU set fundraising records and "significantly improved its overall rankings, and dramatically exceeded freshmen enrollment goals." Costin most recently was elevated to the role of Big South Conference president. 

Last August, Liberty announced that the Georgia-based group CarterBaldwin Executive Search would conduct the search for the university's next president.

"The selection by the trustees of a national executive recruiter clearly demonstrated Liberty's
commitment to excellence and its determination to work with the absolute best advisors to help us identify the right leaders to guide Liberty University into the future," Board Chairman Tim Lee said in a statement. 

"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. They will ensure Liberty University remains focused entirely on Training Champions for Christ to impact the world in every vocation."

Johnnie Moore, a prominent Evangelical public relations executive who worked at Liberty University for 13 years, including a stint as its senior vice president of communications, called Costin's hiring a "tremendous decision."

"Objectively speaking, very few college presidents in America have the qualifications of Dr. Dondi Costin. He is the right leader at the right time," Moore said in an email to The Christian Post. "Coupling the appointment of the new president with the reestablishment of the position of Chancellor further anchors the university in its founding mission and vision. This is a very good day for Liberty University and for Christian higher education. These wise decisions will make the Liberty community proud."

The news comes as the school deals with litigation from former president and chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Jr., the brother of incoming chancellor Jonathan Falwell.  

Earlier this month, Falwell Jr. filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming he is owed $8.5 million in retirement funds after being forced to resign in August 2020 amid a personal scandal.

Liberty released a statement stating that the newly filed complaint is "part of a larger dispute currently pending in state court."

"The University will defend the new action on the same grounds it has already pled on the record in the state case. Liberty is confident it is not legally required to pay these funds and will file the appropriate responses with the federal court," the statement reads. 

Liberty filed a lawsuit against Falwell in April 2021 seeking $10 million in damages, accusing him of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and statutory conspiracy.

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