On the cusp of his 85th birthday on March 22, 2015, Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson is going strong, keeping a full schedule, and, admittedly, remains a very elusive interview “target.” He “downshifted” just long enough to give Christian Leader a glimpse of what he values most and the key to any success he has achieved.
There’s no doubting that God has uniquely equipped Robertson as a religious broadcaster and media pioneer, a best-selling author, an educator and Bible teacher, a global philanthropist, and a political and cultural voice for our nation. His lifetime of success is built on a very simple, yet practical, principle: “Give God the credit for all the good things, and personally take the blame for all the mistakes,” he says. “When we exalt and praise God and honor Him in that way, He brings miracles to pass.”
The “good things” and miracles in his life are easy to track. Personally, they include his 60-year marriage to his wife Adelia “Dede” (Elmer) Robertson, their four children and 14 grandchildren. His most notable professional accomplishment began on October 1, 1961, with the first broadcast of the Christian Broadcasting Network on a tiny UHF television station in Portsmouth, Virginia. In the more than 53 years that have followed, CBN has broadcast religious programming in more than 100 languages and 200 countries, leading hundreds of millions of people around the world to faith in Jesus Christ.
Regent board member Conoly Phillips has known Robertson since the early 1960s. He calls his longtime friend “a true entrepreneur,” adding, “He’s just a very brilliant person with bold faith and great vision. It’s amazing to see the talent that the Lord has given him to equip him to do what he has done.”
Regent junior Hanna Bishop says the biggest lesson she and other Regent students can learn from Robertson’s leadership is to fully depend on and trust in the Lord: “Dr. Robertson continually reminds students to humble ourselves and allow God to display His power in our lives, at every age and through every season. His ability to listen and obey is very inspiring, and our university is blessed as he continues in the Lord’s work.”
The son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, Regent’s founder has ancestral ties to two U.S. presidents, one signer of the Declaration of Independence, and former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. “I grew up in a family immersed in governmental affairs,” he says. “I was privileged to have a superb undergraduate education followed by a law degree from the finest law school in America at that time. After that, I spent three years in seminary. Despite my educational and family background, I was not equipped for the service He had for me. The real preparation was a time of humbling and struggle, during which I learned to rely on the power of God and tasted His miracle-working power.”
Robertson’s early days in Portsmouth, Virginia, were difficult, but that time of testing allowed the young husband and father to “grow into the presence of God.” He learned to rely on the Lord’s goodness and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “I believe that finding the plan of God for my life is like pulling back the petals of a rose,” Robertson explains. “It seems to be a lifetime endeavor. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what the Lord had for me. It was only through the unfolding years that I have learned of God’s plan for broadcasting, then later for education, and all the other activities I have been involved in.”
Those “other activities” include founding Regent University in 1977, the international relief and development organization Operation Blessing in 1978, and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in 1990. Chief counsel for the ACLJ, Dr. Jay Sekulow says Robertson’s entrepreneurial vision and his dedication to excellence are at the center of his many successes: “I am honored to call Pat Robertson a friend. His insight, his knowledge, and his guidance over the years have been invaluable to me. Pat has always championed the values that made America the great nation that it is today. It’s very clear that Pat has a deep and abiding love of God and a love of country.”
A fellow member of Regent’s board of trustees, Sekulow adds, “The university has never wavered from its core mission: providing a first-class, Christ-centered education that remains unparalleled. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work alongside Pat on some of the most exciting challenges of our time. I am grateful for his friendship and continue to pray for Pat as he celebrates this important milestone.”
Robertson’s daughter, Ann LeBlanc, is Regent’s vice president for Advancement. She says age is irrelevant when it comes to her father: “At 85, Dad is still the creative driving force for Regent. Our innovations in student recruitment and focus on student ‘happiness’ are cutting edge in education. He is driving the focus on retention and customer service. His constant focus on innovation and excellence are key to the dramatic increases we are seeing in enrollment. We were in decline, and he has pushed us to a place where we are growing again. His stamina is amazing.”
As you might expect, Robertson starts every day in the Lord’s presence with prayer and Bible study. And he lightheartedly points to an Averell Harriman quote to explain his longevity: “I chose my ancestors wisely.” Robertson adds, “I have become somewhat of an expert on exercise and nutrition. More than anything, I have learned to forgive whatever is done to me by whomever, which gives me peace and joy.”
Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, Regent’s executive vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, says Robertson’s greatest legacy is his faith, zeal and commitment to the Lord: “Over and over, he has reiterated the bigness of God, the greatness of God, and our need to trust him through prayer, supplication and obedient, hard work. Really, he is a contemporary Abraham—a man who simply believes in God to do the impossible. It is deeply humbling to hear Regent’s founder state that he has simply been a spectator watching God do great things. No matter how great the accomplishment or accolade, our chancellor is the first to remind us that it is about the Lord and not about anyone else.”
Regent board member Phillip Walker, who has known Robertson for more than 40 years, calls his friend and colleague a true pioneer and visionary leader committed to fulfilling the Great Commission: “His commitment to our Lord coupled with his compassion for our fellow man has resulted in one of the greatest ministry outreaches the world will ever witness. Only eternity will be able to record the countless millions of lives changed forever as a result of his efforts with CBN, Operation Blessing, ACLJ and Regent University!”