The board of trustees of Liberty University unanimously appointed Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Dondi E. Costin as the sixth president of the university and Pastor Jonathan Falwell the third chancellor of the university. The decision was announced March 31. Both leaders will assume their duties ahead of the 2023–24 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. I am beyond grateful to the board for entrusting me with this extraordinary opportunity,” Costin said. “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 added, “With this transition, we are recommitting our institution to its founding, and singular, mission: Training Champions for Christ. I look forward to serving alongside our exceptionally qualified new president to impact more lives than ever before with Christ-centered education.” Like his father before him, Falwell will remain as senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church while also serving at Liberty University.
Costin comes to the university’s leadership as a continuation of a lifetime dedicated to service. Most recently, Costin has served as president of Charleston Southern University.
Under his leadership, the university set fundraising records, significantly improved its overall rankings, and dramatically exceeded freshmen enrollment goals. On the heels of the best all-around year in CSU’s athletic history, Costin now serves as president of the Big South Conference.
Prior to CSU, Costin obtained the rank of Major General with the U.S. Air Force during 32 years of commissioned service, during which he represented the Liberty Baptist Fellowship as an endorsed chaplain. He completed his military career at the Pentagon as Air Force Chief of Chaplains.
As Chief of Chaplains, he served as senior pastor to more than 664,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces in the United States and overseas, and he led 2,000 chaplains and chaplain assistants from the Air Force Chaplain Corps.
A decorated combat veteran, Costin deployed in support of numerous contingency and humanitarian relief operations across the globe and previously served as senior chaplain for Air Force operations in both the Pacific and the Middle East. His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree in operations research from the United States Air Force Academy, Costin holds five master’s degrees, a Doctor of Ministry degree, and a Ph.D. in organizational leadership. He earned two of his five master’s degrees from Liberty University early in his military career. He has been married to Vickey, a public-school educator, for more than 33 years.
Extensive national search
The appointments by the trustees come after an extensive national search was conducted on behalf of the university’s presidential and chancellor search special committee by CarterBaldwin Executive Search, one of America’s top executive recruiters. The search involved the evaluation of nearly 100 credible candidates over a period of eight months.
“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,” said board chairman Tim Lee. “They will ensure Liberty University remains focused entirely on Training Champions for Christ to impact the world in every vocation.”
Jonathan Falwell named chancellor
As a member of Liberty University’s founding generation, Falwell has spent his life associated with the ministries of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University, serving at Thomas Road Baptist Church for nearly 30 years and as its senior pastor since 2007.
He has also served on the board of trustees of Liberty University for over 30 years. Previously at Liberty University, Falwell held the title of vice chancellor for spiritual affairs and he is presently the university’s executive vice president for spiritual affairs/campus pastor.
He is also twice an alumnus of Liberty University and he holds a juris doctor. In addition to his church ministry, Falwell has been a successful entrepreneur, an author, a widely published photographer and a commercial pilot. He and his wife, Shari, have been married since 1992 and they have four children (three are married) and two grandchildren.
Reporting independently to the board of trustees, both Falwell and Costin will work alongside the university’s spiritual and academic leadership to provide comprehensive oversight of the institution’s operations and mission.
Jerry Prevo transitions to president emeritus
The appointments also mark the formal transition of Jerry Prevo from the position of interim president to president emeritus of the university. This begins the next chapter in Prevo’s own 40-year relationship with Liberty University, including as the longtime chairman of the board.
Prevo has been an active member of the search committee and helped develop the timeline for the planning, launching and execution of the search to identify his own successor.
“We are so grateful for the stable, competent and strong leadership Jerry Prevo has provided during this transitional season,” said executive committee chairman Carroll Hudson. “Prevo’s exceptional tenure as interim president has been marked by record enrollment, a refocusing of the University on its original mission, and substantive, institutional reforms which will provide effective governance of Liberty University going forward, protecting the original mission and vision for future generations. Prevo has made a profound contribution to Liberty University.”
The board unanimously approved the title of president emeritus for Prevo to honor the historic contributions he has made to the university.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve Liberty University,” said Prevo, “and I am humbled to continue serving in my new role as president emeritus.”