The Big Campus Slim Down at Liberty University
Lynchburg, VA - It was May 2007 when Jerry Falwell dropped dead in his office from sudden cardiac death. Falwell left behind a legacy at Liberty University.
The school quickly has grown into one of the largest Christian universities in the world.
Last year something happened to his son Jerry Jr. that would radically change his life, and the legacy his father left behind.
It was May 2012, five years after his father passed, that Jerry Falwell Jr. was about to deliver a graduation address; only a few days before all eyes would be on the campus for his introduction of Mitt Romney as the year's commencement speaker.
But it was minutes before he took to the stage, that he felt something go terribly wrong.
You may not have known it by seeing him at the 2012 LU commencement ceremony, Falwell was up and walking, speaking in front of thousands, all less than 48 hours after suffering a mini-stroke.
Falwell took us to the top of DeMoss Hall, his favorite spot on campus, where he recounted the day he nearly lost the incredible view.
"The left side of my mouth was drooping, my wife noticed I was drooling, and I told her, I can't talk and my hand is numb" he said.
At the time, Falwell weighed in at nearly 240 lbs. He regularly took high blood pressure medication. And his exercise was often his walk to a fast food restaurant for lunch.
"Having that episode, it scared everybody" he said.
His father, for much of his adult life, was very overweight. Falwell carries those same genes, that same propensity for southern fried, fatty foods.
But he also carries what he says is his father's dogged determination.
"I'm not on any blood pressure medication anymore, and I never did go on cholesterol medicine, so that scare, was one of the main motivating factors in losing the weight" he said.
To date, Falwell has lost 73 lbs. According to his doctors, his heart is strong and healthy, his blood vessels repairing the damage done by that stroke.
And now, he has a new hobby. He took us to Crosswhite Fitness, where two days a week, he goes all out.
"I didn't realize what a bad influence I was being before. But I was a cheese curl junkie. I would sit there every night and eat a big old barrel of cheese curls and I didn't care about my weight, and apparently, a lot of other people were following suit" said Falwell.
The term lead by example is taken quite literally at Liberty. Falwell says, when he decided to drop the weight, so did his co-workers.
Don Moon, Liberty's Chief Financial Officer, has lost 50 lbs. Scott Bullman, Liberty's Director of Ministry Teams is down 180 pounds.
"You stop loving the people around you the way that you should" said Bullman.
Bullman joins a team of Liberty weight loss leaders, administrators and professors, determined to drop a size or two in an effort to get healthy.
To date, the staff at Liberty has lost a staggering 1,500 lbs., a number growing steadily every day.
But perhaps the most amazing story is the one of 26 year old Josh Wade. They call him Bubba. The Financial Aid Representative has been on high blood pressure medication since high school.
"Where I was going a couple of months ago, was a very short life and I love life" said Wade.
He's lost more than 80 pounds.
And he, like many at Liberty, attribute their change in health to Liberty graduate and personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite.
"I got a few calls from more administrators at Liberty, and started taking them on, and it just snowballed-effect; other people saw them, and down the line" said Crosswhite.
"It's nice to see Jerry was the main cause of that" he said.
Falwell, with his dogged determination, and a new outlook on life has changed this campus, his campus, for the better.
According to the Daily Beast website, Liberty University has the third healthiest college campus in the country. They site low use of alcohol and drugs and many healthy dining options. You can now add a healthy administration and staff to that list.