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'I Am Beyond Grateful': Liberty University Names New President, Chancellor in Wake of Jerry Falwell Scandal

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Since the chaotic exit of Jerry Falwell, Jr., as president of Liberty University in the summer of 2020, the large Christian college in central Virginia has been searching for its next leader. And the evangelical school’s executive committee has finally found one.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Dondi Costin, Ph.D., will serve as Liberty’s sixth president, and Jonathan Falwell, son of the late Jerry Falwell, Sr., who founded the now-university as a Bible college in 1971, will be formally installed as the college’s third chancellor, a significant appointment, given it’s a role his father once held alongside his titles as founder and president of the university.

Costin, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 32 years and ended his tenure in the military as Air Force Chief of Chaplains, holds five master’s degrees — two of which he received from Liberty — and a doctorate in organizational leadership. He is leaving his position as president of Charleston Southern University in South Carolina to assume the role in Virginia.

“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 said in a statement obtained by CBN News. “I am beyond grateful to the board for entrusting me with this extraordinary opportunity.”

He went on to say he and his wife Vickey “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.”

News of Costin’s appointment, which comes after a lengthy hunt conducted on behalf of Liberty’s search committee by the executive recruiting agency CarterBaldwin, follows reports Jerry Falwell, Jr., is suing the Lynchburg-based university.

In mid-March, Jerry Falwell, Jr., who navigated Liberty through a time of significant expansion, filed suit in federal district court in Lynchburg, Virginia, seeking nearly $8.5 million in retirement benefits he claims the university has improperly withheld from him, according to WSET-TV.

The lawsuit alleges the younger Falwell was owed $7.6 million in 2020, when he parted ways with Liberty in the wake of unflattering reports detailing an untoward, years-long sexual tryst involving Jerry Falwell, Jr., his wife Becki, and then-Miami-based pool attendant Giancarlo Granda.

While Jerry Falwell, Jr., has acknowledged an affair took place, he has denied having any role in it.

The former university president further claims in his court filing he was supposed to be credited an additional 6% investment return in the years after his retirement, now totaling around $8.5 million.

Liberty, it should be noted, sued Jerry Falwell, Jr., for $10 million in 2021, claiming he renegotiated the terms of his contract in bad faith, failing to disclose to university board members the details of the salacious scandal that would soon unfold, as first reported in late August 2020 by Reuters.

“This claim is part of a larger dispute currently pending in state court,” Liberty said in a statement about the lawsuit from Jerry Falwell, Jr. “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.”

As for the university’s transition of leadership, current Interim President Jerry Prevo, a pastor from Anchorage, Alaska, and longtime chair of Liberty’s board of trustees will be named president emeritus.

Prevo, who has helmed the university through a tumultuous time, described his tenure as president of Liberty as “the honor of a lifetime.”

Jonathan Falwell, for his part, has served at Thomas Road Baptist Church — the church founded by his father Jerry Falwell, Sr. — for nearly 30 years and took over as its senior pastor in 2007, when the late Falwell passed away. He has also served on Liberty’s board of trustees for more than three decades.

He has previously been Liberty’s vice chancellor for spiritual affairs and currently serves as executive vice president for spiritual affairs and campus pastor.

“With this transition, we are recommitting our institution to its founding and singular mission: Training champions for Christ,” Jonathan Falwell said in a statement, borrowing the college’s motto. “I look forward to serving alongside our exceptionally qualified new president to impact more lives than ever before with Christ-centered education.”

Jonathan Falwell, it should be noted, will remain senior pastor of Thomas Road while serving as chancellor of Liberty, just as his father did.

Full disclosure: The author of this report is a graduate of Liberty University.

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About The Author

Tré Goins-Phillips Headshot

Tré Goins-Phillips serves as a host and content creator for CBN News. He hosts the weekly “Faith vs. Culture” show and co-hosts “Quick Start,” a news podcast released every weekday morning. Born and raised in Virginia, Tré now lives along the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he has built his career, often traveling to meet and interview fascinating cultural influencers and entertainers. After working with brands like TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, Tré began his career at CBN News in 2018 and has a particular passion for bridging the chasm between the secular world and the church