LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- After nearly five decades of service to Liberty University, Dr. Harold Willmington, 86, died on Monday, after a battle with cancer.
Willmington was Liberty's longest-serving faculty member to date, with 46 years to his name.
The university issued a statement Monday, recognizing Wilmington for his contributions and saying that he will "forever be a pillar of the university, particularly for his role in shaping and preserving its theological foundation."
Willmington earned the nickname "Mr. Bible", as a devoted instructor of the Bible, the university says. He was also a best-selling author, researcher and global leader. Over his career, Willmington served as a pastor, teacher, and dean.
His book, “Willmington’s Guide to the Bible,” has been in print for more than three decades with more than 350,000 copies distributed.
In 1972, a year after Liberty's founding, he joined the faculty and started the Bible Institute as a residential program. In 1976, Willmington helped launch the home correspondence course, 'Liberty Home Bible Institute'.
The program became the world’s largest correspondence diploma program on the Bible and positioned Liberty to be a pioneer in distance education, the university says.
Today, the university’s Willmington School of the Bible offers an online certificate program, which can lead to an undergraduate degree at the Rawlings School of Divinity.
“The passing of Dr. Harold Willmington marks the end of an era at Liberty University,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell. “His single-minded devotion to teaching the Bible to as many students as possible while never worrying about who got the credit allowed him to impact this university as only a handful of people have done. Dr. Willmington was a good friend, and I was always impressed with his humility and meekness. He truly lived the Christian life that he labored so hard to teach others. He will be greatly missed by the entire university community.”
Vice Provost Dr. Ronald Hawkins echoed that sentiment: “I sincerely doubt that any person now living or in heaven ever enjoyed teaching the Bible more or did it better than my friend and colleague of over 40 years, Dr. Harold Willmington. He will be missed.”