When he was 9, Randy Heard '20 liked to watch one person more than anyone else on TV: The Rev. Billy Graham.
"He had a single message, and he changed the world," said Heard, who is 23.
Heard's passion for religion hasn't wavered.
He's served as the student leader of the ODU chapter of Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. He'll graduate in May with a philosophy degree and a concentration in religious studies after switching from a major in civil engineering technology.
But he's not planning to be a preacher. Heard leans toward mission work. His long-range goal is to work overseas to connect with people "who don't have full access to the Gospel or the Bible."
He spent seven weeks in north Africa last year. "I talked about what I believed, and I heard what they believed," Heard said. "I love to see when someone is actively listening, even if they disagree entirely."
That's also been his style at Old Dominion. He recalls fierce arguments with a "militant atheist" as a freshman. He found the debates refreshing, even if he didn't sway her.
"It caused me to dive even deeper into my religion and faith to shore up my answers," Heard said.
He's a nondenominational Protestant, but he speaks enthusiastically about taking courses in Tibetan religions and Nietzsche, the philosopher who declared "God is dead."
"I disagree with every word that comes out of him," Heard said, "but it's fascinating to see that thought process.
"That's the stuff I really geek out about."
Heard has attended Crossroads Church near campus since he was a freshman. The church's pastor, Kevin Tremper '02, calls him a "people gatherer."
"He's able to cross culture barriers very well, and he's able to help people feel valued and important," said Tremper, who's also president of the University Chaplains Association. "He leads out of a desire to make things better for other people, and he does that without needing recognition."
Tremper has been so impressed that he's employed Heard as an intern. And after Heard graduates, he'll work full time at Crossroads in community outreach and facilities management.
At ODU, Heard also leads Cru's men's group, Forge. "He's a strong, confident dude, but he's also very caring," said senior Brock Clifford, one of his closest friends. "He builds relationships with everyone he knows."
Clifford recalled when Heard befriended a homeless man. Not only did Heard buy him necessities at Walmart; he also drove him to a doctor's appointment.
Heard thinks young people have become less religious "because they go to church and they're put down for asking questions. I want to hear what their best questions are."
A MONARCH MARRIAGE
Heard married a fellow Monarch last year. Phoebe Heard, who graduated last summer with a nursing degree, works at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.
To read more stories in the new issue of Monarch magazine, go to www.odu.edu/monarchmag