Liberty University (LU) has announced that Rev. Jerry Prevo, chairman of Liberty’s board of trustees, is the acting president of the university, effective immediately. This news comes two weeks before the start of Liberty’s academic year and three days after the university announced that Jerry Falwell, Jr., had been placed on an indefinite leave of absence.
“I want to thank my fellow board members for having confidence that I could be entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the Acting President during this time,” said Prevo in a statement published August 10. “We have a world-class leadership team at Liberty University who will support me in running our operations on a day-to-day basis and fulfilling our spiritual mission unabated: Training Champions for Christ. Please pray for us as well as the Falwell family as we embark on our academic year and so we may continue to be united in our common purpose and our faith in Christ.”
The board was unanimous in supporting Prevo as new appointee, and he will step aside as board chairman for the duration of his time as acting president.
Prevo Replaces Falwell After Embarrassing Photo
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., was placed on an indefinite leave of absence on August 7 after a picture circulated online of him with his pants partially unzipped, revealing his underwear. Standing next to him was a young woman who is not his wife, also with her zipper partially down.
Falwell had posted the image on his Instagram account and then removed it, but not before people had screenshot and reposted it. He has since apologized, saying the picture was taken at a costume party and that the woman with him is “my wife’s assistant and she’s a sweetheart, and I should never have put it out to embarrass her.” Some Liberty students saw Falwell’s picture as hypocritical in light of the standards that students are expected to uphold.
Falwell’s replacement, Rev. Jerry Prevo, has served on Liberty’s board of trustees since 1996 and as the board’s chairman since 2003. Originally from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, Prevo moved to Alaska in 1971 where he served as senior pastor at Anchorage Baptist Temple church for 47 years. When he retired, the church voted to make him pastor emeritus and pay him a retirement salary.
During his time with the Anchorage Baptist, Prevo helped to grow the congregation into a megachurch that supports a school, three radio stations, and a television station. He is known for his influence in conservative political circles and has been described as being “the face of the evangelical Christian right in Alaska for decades.” Prevo is expected to begin working from Liberty’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, on August 17.
Some Liberty students have expressed skepticism about the trustworthiness of any leader the current board would appoint because they believe the board should have taken action against Falwell long ago.
let’s just be clear Falwell left a lot of damage in his wake. Anyone at the school who I would trust in a leadership position has since been pushed out.
that includes the board, who I highly doubt appoints anyone antagonistic to Falwell or what he created at Liberty
— ev young (@ev_erette) August 7, 2020
One group, launched Monday, is calling for Falwell’s permanent removal as president. Named Save 71, the organization is composed of Liberty alumni, students, and faculty and has published a timeline of troubling actions from LU leadership over the past five years. “There is much to admire about Liberty, its students, and its professors,” says the group on its website. “But for too long, Liberty’s leaders have used the school’s virtues to shield its sins and used its power to cloak its failures. That must end now.”
On Twitter, Save 71 criticized Prevo as being “part of the problem,” adding, “We want Falwell to be permanently removed because of the toxic culture he is responsible for, and Prevo is one of his greatest enablers.”
Jerry Prevo is not the solution Liberty needs — he is part of the problem.
We want Falwell to be permanently removed because of the toxic culture he is responsible for, and Prevo is one of his greatest enablers. https://t.co/hXbCa5nnGw
— Save71 (@save71LU) August 10, 2020