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November 3, 2009
Since its start in 1978, Regent University has seen its graduates elected as state legislators, district attorneys and judges. But nothing compares with the election Tuesday of Robert F. "Bob" McDonnell as governor of Virginia.
"It's definitely a big deal for all Regent students and alumni," said Bill Condon, a 2004 graduate who is an assistant attorney general in South Carolina. "A Regent alumnus serving as governor is going to get the name out."
Around the country, Regent alumni agreed: McDonnell's election is a shared achievement for their young, striving alma mater.
It's a proud moment "no matter where you are on the political spectrum," said Sharon Weston Broome, a Democrat and 1984 graduate who is president pro tempore of the Louisiana state Senate.
McDonnell, a Republican and former Virginia Beach resident, earned master's and law degrees from Regent in 1989.
It was there that McDonnell wrote the graduate thesis that drew so much attention during the campaign.
In his paper, he advocated a conservative social agenda and took the position that women who work outside the home are harmful to society.
McDonnell this year disavowed some of the thesis, and it didn't become a major issue with voters.
"It is a blessing for the school to be able to show others in the community at large that the grads we are turning out are very capable, very qualified and they are well-rounded," said Bobby Maddox, an El Paso, Texas, attorney and 2001 Regent law school graduate.
Regent battled for years to get its law school accredited by the American Bar Association in the 1980s.
The law school still is ranked low by U.S. News & World Report.
"I know the law school struggles with being a fourth-tier law school in the rankings, but some of the smartest people I've met I met at Regent," said Condon, who serves on the school's executive alumni board.
Alumni said McDonnell's election also affirms Regent's goal to offer education "in pivotal professions to equip Christian leaders to change the world," as described on its Web site.
"I know Regent's mission has been very strategic as to the degrees it offers," said Brent Van Norman, a local attorney and 2000 Regent law school graduate.
"They're trying to have an influence there, and certainly the political arena is one of them."
"One of the principles instilled in us was, it's important for us to be in positions of influence," she said.
"I took that and ran with it, and obviously, Bob McDonnell has done the same thing."
McDonnell and Pat Robertson, a religious broadcaster and Regent's founder, have a warm relationship.
McDonnell has said Regent taught him "the real importance of being a Christian elected official... acting in a degree of civility and trying to build bridges to get things done without compromising principle."
The relationship has had tangible benefits, as well. Robertson has given McDonnell nearly $700,000 since 1997, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Most recently, he gave $25,000 to McDonnell's campaign on Oct. 20.