news-category: Alumni

Alumna’s Various Experiences at Gardner-Webb Prepared Her to Work at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Business Major Kim Rivera, ’84, Played on First Women’s Tennis Team and Served on Several Mission Trips

By Ashley Rich, ’26 Intern for University Communications

For alumna Kim Randolph Rivera, attending Gardner-Webb University proved a deeply impactful experience, giving her the opportunity to participate in collegiate sports and various activities, work as a Resident Assistant, serve on several mission teams, and form connections with people all over the world. From her professors and academic experiences, she was able to hone her time management, goal-setting, and communication skills, preparing her for a fulfilling and successful professional and personal life.

“The most important lesson I learned is the value of people and friendships—GWU has such a strong sense of community. I met students at Gardner-Webb that helped me study the Bible and grow in my faith,” Rivera shared. “I loved participating in many activities at Gardner-Webb. Find things you’re passionate about and get involved! Learn something new! Challenge yourself! Make a difference! Join a community or club that worships, prays, encourages and helps you grow.”

At the 2020 Prayer March with Franklin Graham in Washington, D.C., Kim Randolph Rivera was positioned on the Terrace with Graham and his guests. At the time, she worked in the television department for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which offered live coverage of the event. Currently, she works in the new Billy Graham Archive and Research Center.

A graduate of the class of 1984, Rivera, will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of her graduation in April 2024. Hailing from Mt. Holly, N.C., Rivera majored in business management. She discovered Gardner-Webb through Linda Greene, a friend from her church, First Baptist in Stanley, N.C. “When we stepped onto campus, met staff and students, I knew this was the college where I wanted to spend the next four years,” Rivera said.

Starting in her high school years at East Gaston, Rivera played tennis for the men’s team. As she began her time at GWU, she hoped to continue to play tennis, even if she had to once again play for the men’s team. After speaking with Dan Moore, athletic director at the time, the first women’s tennis team at the school was formed, coached by Pat Wilkinson. “My first semester, fall of 1980, we started practice and had the first fall season of matches,” Rivera recalled.

Rivera’s experiences in the business department during her time at GWU proved to be quite an asset for her later work. The pathway prepared her for the variety of professional positions she has held over the years. “The business department was large with exceptional professors and classes,” she related. “We were a tight knit group, and I’m still great friends with so many from our class.”

One of Kim Rivera’s favorite activities was serving as a Governor’s Aide at Gardner-Webb. Governor’s Aides had the same responsibilities as Student Ambassadors have today.

Roughly 20 years after graduating from GWU and while working as a children’s pastor at South Point Baptist Church in Belmont, N.C., Rivera learned that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) moved their headquarters from Minneapolis to Charlotte, N.C. Remembering Graham’s impact at Gardner-Webb at its Spangler Hall dedication in 1971 and thinking that the organization would be a good fit for her, she applied for a job. In January 2005, she entered a position in the television department working with video, audio and photo archives. Currently, Rivera works in the new Billy Graham Archive and Research Center located on the same property as the BGEA headquarters and Billy Graham Library.

“I’ve been blessed to work on video productions and meet Christian leaders from all over the world,” she said. “It is truly astonishing to realize what Billy Graham accomplished during his lifetime. Thankfully, I met and talked with him. He was the humble and kind man I knew he would be.”

For herself and the other members of her graduating class who were so deeply impacted by their time at GWU, Rivera and members of the Alumni Board are excited to be planning a Class of 1984 reunion next year. Members of the graduating classes of 1983 and 1985 will also be included in the event.

“I truly loved my four years at GWU!” Rivera asserted. “It’s been a joy to serve on the Alumni Board and reconnect with the University and alumni. The campus is beautiful. I’m amazed at the growth of the University and very proud of all it has to offer students.”

Writer Ashley Rich is a Gardner-Webb English major from Etowah, N.C.

Kim and Ken Rivera have been married 35 years and their family: daughters, Kaley Rivera Thompson (Gage – husband), granddaughters Adelina, Liliana and Cecilia; and Kristin Rivera Dixon (Jacob – husband).

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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