Bill Bradford
Assistant Professor of Aviation
Joined Averett in 2011

Master of Education, Secondary Education — emphasis in History, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Bachelor of Arts, History, University of New Hampshire


Ask who Bill Bradford is, and Averett students likely will say: "He's a big-time pilot who teaches here." They would be right.

Professor Bradford is, in fact, a retired United Airlines captain, and he's very happy to be in Danville. "There are genuinely nice people here," he says. "People say, 'We're glad you're here, glad you moved to Danville' … and they really mean it."

Originally a New Englander, Bradford's first flight was at the age of six. A neighbor owned a Bonanza aircraft, and little Billy got to fly with him. "This is neat," he thought, "I need to do this some more."

He certainly flew some more, including time in the Navy, serving from 1966-1970 in Vietnam. He came to Averett from a stint as chief flight instructor at Northern Nevada Aviation. "When the chair of Averett's aeronautics department contacted me about a position, I visited … and immediately liked the friendliness of the faculty and staff."

He explains that the typical New England professor drives a Saab, wears corduroy sports coats with leather elbow patches and is generally not to be disturbed. That is not what he found at Averett, and it's certainly not the way he operates.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that each Averett student learns all the details. And let's face it, there are hundreds and hundreds of details that pilots need to know."

He explains to his students that if they don't bother to learn the details, they'll always be taking instruction. "Would you rather be told what to do all the time, or would you prefer to be a boss someday? You have to do the work," he tells his students.

And he's there to help them every step of the way.


Hank Dempsey
Chair of the Department of Aeronautics
Assistant Professor of Aviation
Joined Averett in 2008

Postgraduate work, Project Zero, Harvard University
One year’s study toward Doctor of Musical Arts, Composition, University of Maryland School of Music
Master of Arts, Music, Percussion, Theory/Composition, Ouachita Baptist University
Bachelor of Music, Composition, Percussion, Ouachita Baptist University


Two words. That's all it takes for professor Hank Dempsey to sum up what makes Averett's aviation students unique: "They fly!"

Not only that, "They can fly the first week they're here." With an instructor of course. He says that new students show up, go through orientation, get ID, books, etc. — all the normal things — but then they head to the airport and get their assigned instructor. Within a day or two, they start flying.

"They also go to classes during that time, and they balance that work with time in the air," he says, "but we get them in the air right away."

Dempsey, a former airline captain with an unending and wicked sense of humor, exposes a soft spot: "I really love my students." And you can tell he means it. "They're a great bunch of kids, and they're interesting — we have kids here from all over the world. Shoot, I never met anyone from a foreign country until the Army sent me to Germany, but here they're just out of high school and already they're in an international group. We'll have a kid from Virginia next to someone from Kenya, another from Finland. It's quite a mix."

Dempsey also feels that the students in aviation are exceptional in other ways. "The aeronautics majors are good kids — they're sharp, they're hard workers, and they learn real soon that they need to steer clear of harmful substances. There simply is no room for error up there. My job is to keep the students alive. You can never forget that we're dealing with human lives here."

Once in awhile, he says, students who begin the program decide not to major in aviation. But, he adds, "That is fine. Really. I'm here to help, and I'll work with them to find and pursue an area better suited to them."

It's obvious that Dempsey himself is best suited to a life of flying. He loved planes as a kid, and he loves them now. In typical fashion, he sums up the appeal of the Averett aeronautics program quite simply: "Airplanes are cool!"

T_Williams Travis Williams '00
Chief Flight Instructor
Joined Averett in 2002

Bachelor of Science, Aviation/Criminal Justice, Averett University
Certified Flight Instructor (4,000+ hours of dual instruction given)
Commercial Pilot
Air Transport Pilot


"I tell all my instructors that the students' job is to try to kill you. Your job is to not let it happen. That is how they learn."

Chief Flight Instructor Travis Williams seldom pulls any punches. He lives in a world where things have to be spelled out and followed precisely, where it truly is a matter of life or death.

"We learn so much from mistakes," he says. "You know that plane that landed on the Hudson River? Any accident like that helps the whole industry plan and train for such events."

His program relies heavily on simulation and other techniques. "Each student is an individual," he says, "so we come up with specific training techniques tailored to each student."

His own experience is unlike that of most of his students. When he was a little boy, his grandfather was a plane owner and pilot. "He took me up all the time. Flying to me was just a part of everyday life." Don't all kids fly?

He says that 80 percent of those who enter the aviation program at Averett have never even been in a plane. Certainly no one in their family has a plane; they simply know that they want to fly.

Williams' honesty comes to the surface again when he meets interested students. He tells them "If you don't love this, if you're in this program to make fast money, now is the time to switch majors. The money will come, but it might take 15+ years."

Obviously the program is brimming with success stories. The halls of the aviation center are lined with framed photos of pilots standing in front of planes, all sorts and sizes — and they're all graduates of the Averett aviation program.

He recently had 30 graduates, all now working pilots, come in to talk to the students over a weekend, sharing stories and giving career advice.

Not surprisingly, they flew themselves in.

Diane Kendrick
Chair of the Department of Art
Professor of Art
31+ years teaching at Averett

Master of Fine Arts, drawing and clay sculpture, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Science, art education, East Carolina University Greenville, N.C.

Expertise: Enameling in Art, Art Education in the Public Schools, History of the Monotype Print

Awards: Received an honorable mention for painting, "Weeping Fall," at the Caswell County 28th Annual Exhibition, October 2006

Professional Affiliations:
     Member of the College Art Association
     Member of the Southeastern College Art Association

Art Shows:
     "Friends," Thurston Art Gallery, Sneeds Fairy, N.C. - Three women from North Carolina, Cherl Harrison, Diane Kendrick and Sherry Thurston, 2007
     "Friends," Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History, Danville, Va. - Three women from North Carolina, Cherl Harrison, Diane Kendrick and Sherry Thurston, 2005
     "Friends," Sunset River Gallery in Calabash, N.C. - Three women from North Carolina, Cherl Harrison, Diane Kendrick and Sherry Thurston, 2004

Robert Marsh
Professor of Art
Joined Averett in 1969

Master of Fine Arts, Graphic Art, The University of Mississippi
Bachelor of Science, Art, Florence State University (the University of North Alabama)


"I knew I had to be an artist when I saw the chalk talks. I was 7 years old."

That's Professor Robert Marsh, explaining his calling as an artist. In his residual Alabama accent, as comfy as a rockin' chair, he explains chalk talks: "It was in the Baptist church on Wednesday nights. There were visiting teacher-preachers, and they would come in and tell the stories of the Bible. As they told these colorful stories, they also drew them in chalk. Right there, as they were talking, they would draw the various elements of the stories. I was absolutely enamored — of the chalk — and I knew that drawing is what I wanted to do."

So he did. He started using a pencil, even drawing some 3-D things, and then moved on to a piece of slate propped on an easel. He's still drawing — exhibiting and selling his work — and, of course, teaching.

"If you want to make art and have a steady income," he says, "then a small school is definitely the place to be." He feels that the large universities are too competitive — one department against the other, all the time. "All of the administrations here over the years have been totally supportive of the arts. Averett is terrific."

Marsh also has praise for the other faculty members at Averett. "What a great blend of people we have here," he says, "They know their stuff, and they REALLY love to teach! Wow! Let's say you're a student in Department X, and you need to meet with your professor but you can't until 8:30 at night. That prof will stay, or come back to campus, to do that! They put their home phone numbers on their syllabus! They all go out of their way to help."

His endless enthusiasm is matched by his humor. "Art and humor have been the two biggest communicators for me," he says, "and that's why I love to teach. I have a captive audience."

He adds that way back when he graduated from high school, his motto, "If you take life too seriously, you won't get out alive," was under his photo in the yearbook.

Sandstead Lee Sandstead
Associate Professor of Art

Doctoral study, art-history, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Graduate study, art history, University of Memphis
Bachelor of science, mass communication, Middle Tennessee State University
Bachelor of arts, philosophy, Middle Tennessee State University

Expertise: Art, Art history, Stained Glass, "Art Attack with Lee Sandstead," his TV show

Community Involvement:
Member of the Danville Art League
Athletic Training

Lee Burton
Athletic Training Program Director
Associate Professor of Physical Education, Wellness and Sport Science
Joined Averett in 2000

Doctor of Philosophy, Curriculum and Instruction: Health and Wellness, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Master of Science, Education — emphasis in Athletic Training, Old Dominion University
Bachelor of Science, Athletic Training, Appalachian State University
Co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen


Dr. Lee Burton has a low threshold of boredom, and it shows. He's always seeking — and ready for — the next challenge.

"I grew up on a farm," he says, "and I was always active, either outside working or playing sports. I never was one for just sitting around."

As co-creator of the nationally acclaimed Functional Movement Screen (FMS), he is revolutionizing how America measures fitness. He's also hoping to change how we deal with our lack of fitness … and the athletes at Averett are among the beneficiaries.

"Athletic training is usually focused on reactive measures. Someone gets hurt, here's what you do. I want our trainers to be proactive by making sure those who are not hurt do not get hurt."

At Averett and around the country, Burton encourages people to pay attention to their bodies' weak areas and to implement strength and exercise programs.

His approach to teaching is very personal. "I see my job as creating a more self-reliant individual," he says. "I want my students to be good professionals in whatever field they pursue."

He offers a lot of practical, hands-on experience as part of their training, and they get personal attention, as well. "It's almost like a family," he says. "My wife and I host a Christmas party at our house every year for the athletic training students, with a little Santa exchange, and we also host a spring cookout."

Because of Burton's connections with professional sports teams that use the FMS, he is consistently able to arrange for his students to get internships with professional teams.

"If you're looking for a university that is going to challenge and encourage you, there will be numerous opportunities here that you won't have at other schools. We're right for you if you want to do the work."

Biological and Physical Science

James Caldwell
Chair of the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences
Professor of Biology
Joined Averett in 1995

Postdoctoral study: Harvard Medical School
Doctor of Philosophy, Microbiology and Immunology, Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University
Bachelor of Science, Zoology, The University of Texas at Austin


"If I'd won the lottery yesterday, do you know what I'd be doing now?"

As Dr. James Caldwell asks that question, he goes right to the answer: "Exactly what I am doing — teaching at Averett. The time I spend with my students is my favorite time."

He's a teacher, he explains, not a researcher. And as chair of the department, he fills any open positions with teachers, as well. "I don't hire people who worked for a big university where you teach two classes and do research. That's not what we do at Averett. Our doors are open to our students. Our faculty members all want to see our students succeed, and they work very hard to help them do just that."

He explains that Averett has "a very diverse faculty, but they all come here with teaching experience. In fact, I would rather hire someone who taught at a community college than who taught and did research at MIT. We are a community of teachers."

He takes great pride in knowing all of his students, knowing them both inside and outside of the classroom. "I love the small-school atmosphere here, knowing my students, being a part of what they do … even after graduation. Actually, I pride myself most on knowing what they do when they leave here! I keep in touch, they keep in touch."

As he says that, he swings around to his computer, explaining that he maintains a database of his graduates — tracking and updating constantly … using personal contact as well as Facebook, Twitter and other social media. "I have a list right here of my students since 1997," he says, displaying his collection with a flourish.

"Ninety-four percent of graduates from this department in the last six years are either seeking further education or are successfully employed in their field, or both. Their success stories are the things that keep us going."

Spoken like a true — and proud — teacher.


Deborah DeMarey
Associate Professor of Biology
Joined Averett in 2008

Doctor of Philosophy, Geography/Biology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Master of Business Administration, Finance and Marketing, Western New England University
Bachelor of Science, Biology, Westfield State College
Bachelor of Science, Education, University of Maine


We're sitting in Dr. DeMarey's office, and she has the window wide open. As she talks, there's a slight noise in the leaves outside. She stops talking, cocks her head to one side and listens intently.

"Do you hear that," she asks in a loud whisper, "the wood frogs are calling! They're not supposed to do that until the middle of March, maybe even April, but they are!" It goes without saying that everyone should be interested in what wood frogs are doing, and what schedule they're on.

That kind of love for everything outdoors is nonstop for DeMarey, and her enthusiasm is deeply contagious.

"The students at Averett are great," she says, "they're inquisitive and enthusiastic. All I have to do is get them out of the classroom, so that's what I do. We're inside when we need to be, but biology is outside."

She tells the story of one successful alumnus who was at Averett as a PE major. She took him and his class out once to observe early-morning birds. He wrote her after graduation, saying, "You ruined my life — all I can do now is see, hear and identify birds! Seriously, thank you."

The love of nature began when DeMarey was a small girl, spending days in the mountains with a shoebox, an empty jar and a bologna sandwich, collecting insects while heading for her lunch rock. She still observes, still collects … and also now encourages curiosity among her students.

She also has a very practical side to her teaching, focusing on new classes in sustainability, a highly marketable component of biology.

The traditional biology graduate goes to work at a state park, a national park or a zoo, says DeMarey. She's happy that opportunities now are in sustainability — doing what you love, protecting what you love, having a minimal impact on environment — while having a fulfilling career.

"Our sustainability classes look at all of the environmental issues, but from an optimistic perspective — what things can we actually do about global climate challenges. Let's take the less-than-ideal situations and effect positive change."

Her goal is to present students with a new challenge every time they walk through her door. No doubt she does just that, and she does it with enthusiasm.


Laura Meder '77
Associate Professor of Biology
Joined Averett in 1977

Master of Science, Environmental Management, University of London
Bachelor of Science, Biology/Chemistry, Averett University


"You get the travel bug," says Professor Laura Meder, summing up one way she influences her biology students. Yes, she has always been interested in animals (she currently has nine cats), but travel with biology majors — ah, international travel — that’s one special key to her success.

"Whenever we can get our students outside the classroom and even outside the country, that's when they learn the most," she says. "Going outside gets them to recognize the value of pushing themselves in different directions. And you know, that learning experience is different every time, every day, for every student."

Meder certainly has taken her students "outside." She has conducted study trips to places as exotic as Africa (for the animals and for a different ecosystem), Belize (to study dolphins), Suriname (for sea turtles) … plus Costa Rica and Mexico.

"Short (one-week to nine-day) trips are baby steps, aimed at students who have never traveled," she explains. "When they like that, they consider taking trips of a month or longer." She adds that one student worked last summer as an Alaskan river guide, one Suriname-trip student now lives in Korea and another is planning another international trip.

"The trips let us get to know them really well," she says, "although we certainly know all our students, even those who do not choose to travel. As biology teachers, we have them for labs as well as lectures, and that helps a lot. In the labs we work with them individually, plus we get to talk while we're waiting for experiments to complete."

Meder believes in introducing students to people and networks that can start them thinking about new paths and different options for their own lives: "Teaching, to me, is all about helping students recognize their own potential."

One student at a time, at home and abroad.

Jason Robertson

Jason Robertson, '00
Assistant Professor of Biology
Joined Averett in 2011

Doctor of Health Science, Nova Southeastern University
Master of Science, Biology, University of Saint Joseph
Master of Public Health, Public Health Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Science, Averett University

Certificate in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Saint Joseph College
Master Certified Health Education Specialist, National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.
Education Specialist, Higher Education Administration, Appalachian State University
Registered Health Educator
Certified Health Education Specialist


"When students first arrive at Averett," says Dr. Jason Robertson, "they're a little scared … and that's where the faculty step in and say: 'It's OK, you can talk to us. We really are here to help you.'

"Once they learn that we truly do want them to succeed they start to relax, and by the time they graduate, we feel like a second family to them."

Robertson adds that there is not a strong focus on faculty doing research at Averett. The emphasis, instead, is on teaching and caring for the students — creating a nurturing atmosphere that allows the students to grow academically.

Then he becomes really animated: "Oh, oh — this is one of my favorite things! Students arrive here and face a science class, with fear. They say 'I can't do science; I've never been good at it.'

"I tell them, emphatically, "That was then, this is now. You're starting everything new. You can mold yourself into what you want to be! Furthermore, I will work with you, and we have great tutors, so we can make this work. You will be successful.'

"Well, you see them sigh with relief, see them realize, 'Oh, I'm gonna be OK.' It's always such a great moment. I love it. And it's true — if they're willing to do the work, they'll be fine."

Robertson says being on the faculty at Averett was always his goal. "This is what I wanted, and I am here. This is where I belong." He grew up working on his family's tobacco farm, and his life changed when he enrolled at Averett right after high school.

"Averett gave me so much personally and professionally, including great preparation for graduate school and for work. Really, I noticed in grad school that many students from larger institutions were simply not prepared, but I was. Now it's time for me to give back to the next generations."


Jimmy Turner III
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Joined Averett in 2011

Doctor of Philosophy, Theology, Biblical Life College and Seminary
Master of Divinity, Theology, Biblical Life College and Seminary
Master of Science, Organic Chemistry, Wake Forest University
Bachelor of Science, Chemistry, Averett College
Associate of Science, Science, Danville Community College


To an Averett student: "Is Professor Turner here?"
"Yes, right around the corner – he'll be the one smiling."
"Really? Why?"
"He's almost always smiling. He's that way, one of the good guys."

That pretty much sums up Dr. Jimmy Turner — one of the good guys. No pretensions, always approachable and yes, almost always smiling. His students recognize his goodness, and they appreciate it.

"He definitely got me more interested in chemistry," one says, adding, "he made it possible for me to understand. I'll always be grateful."

Ask Turner what he thinks his students would say about him, and the response is quick and simple: "I hope they'd say I was one who was willing to help." He adds, "most of the students at Averett come here for the close interactions they can have with the faculty. To me, that means that they want to learn, so it's a pleasure to help them. That's really why we're here."

Turner earned his undergraduate degree at Averett, and it was then, he says, that he noticed the faculty's deep dedication to the students. "I remember one field trip I took, to Chapel Hill for a weekend seminar, and my professor drove me there and back. I can tell you that at a large university, you would not be driven to a seminar by your professor."

Turner's involvement with his students extends beyond the day of graduation. Over a recent holiday, he heard from four former students, and another one was heading to town for a visit.

"I had one student who came to our house often to do his independent study, and I still hear from him every week," he says. "He went to work as a chemist in Texas doing analysis, doing gas chromatography, and he's now planning on going to graduate school. I'll work to help him get in."

Turner feels that the Averett students are dedicated to their education; they know that he is.


Vincent Kania, CPA
Associate Professor of Business Administration

Kania has taught at Averett for more than 25 years. In addition to teaching, he runs a very successful accounting practice in Danville.

He received his bachelor's and master of business administration degrees from West Virginia University. He has his CPA license in Virginia and West Virginia.


Nancy Ryan
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Joined Averett in 2011

Doctor of Philosophy, Marketing, Texas Tech University
Master of Business Administration, Texas Tech University
Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing, Texas Tech University


Dr. Nancy Ryan has a fascinating past. For one thing, this Ryan from Texas is, in fact, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan's cousin. "He's really nice," she says, "a very genuine man."

For another, she was a winning contestant on the TV game show "The Wheel of Fortune."

She'll give you details about that experience if you ask her (Vanna's even prettier in person; Pat is so short that he climbs onto little platforms to stand by each contestant). And how did that show turn out for her?

“I won 48 pounds of Whoppers [malted milk balls] and 10 cases of Lee Press-on nails. Then the show reran, and I got more junk. Six years later, the IRS called and said I had not claimed my winnings. I said yes, I had — I paid tax on my 500 bucks cash winnings. They said no, we mean all the prizes. You owe us $700 in tax and penalties." She was not pleased.

When Ryan entered undergraduate school in Texas, she thought she would be a drama major, learning to act. "That only lasted until I took my first classes, and I realized it was not for me. But boy, I had a dynamic marketing instructor. From the minute I took the introduction-to-marketing course, I loved it."

That's why she loves teaching intro classes in marketing at Averett: "It's great to see students get connected to marketing, seeing the light bulbs come on as they start to feel and understand its appeal."

Ryan feels right at home with both Averett and Danville. She says that she came to the university for a tour when there was an opening in the department, and she immediately loved the town, the staff members and the faculty: "This town is really safe, friendly, easy to live in. I have great colleagues and awesome students. It has been a very good move for me."


Dr. Chin-Chyuan Tai
Professor of Business Administration

Tai has taught for more than 30 years, 25 of which have been at Averett. His expertise and interests include economic, financial and data analysis. He has published several text books including "Financial Management," "Mathematics for Management," and "Macroeconomics."

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from National Taiwan University and a master's degree and doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Cincinnati.


Brian Turner, '00, CPA
Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Turner has taught a variety of courses in accounting and taxation. In addition to teaching, he is a certified public accountant who has practiced in Danville for more than 10 years.

He was twice named "Super" CPA by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA). He's also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and VSCPA.

He received his bachelor's degree from Averett and a master's degree from Old Dominion University.


Dr. Peggy C. Wright, '85
Professor of Business Administration

Wright has taught at Averett since 1986. She has also held administrative positions including dean of business Programs (2000-03) and vice president of administration and finance (2003-10). She also has experience in small business accounting and consulting (1981-present). She said, "As a professor of accounting, my goal is to impact as many lives as possible and to inspire the students that I meet on a daily basis to be the very best they can be - whatever their chosen path in life. At Averett, we prepare you for several options - graduate school, public practice, private practice and not-for-profits. Students may choose areas that fit their goals the best. Students may also pair their accounting degree with other majors - this is the beauty of a small university."

Wright received her bachelor's degree from Averett, a master's degree from Virginia Tech and a doctorate in business administration from Nova Southeastern University.


Patricia Horne
Assistant Professor of Education
Joined Averett in 2010

Doctor of Philosophy, PK-12 Curriculum and Instruction, Old Dominion University
Master of Education, PK-12 Curriculum and Instruction, Old Dominion University
Bachelor of Science, Biology, The College of William and Mary


Dr. Patricia Horne tends to speak in all caps. She's not shouting, she's just passionate: "I LOVE WHAT I DO. I truly believe teaching is the most important profession in the world."

She explains, "Teaching has an exponential effect — if I impact one student, it affects how they teach in the near future, and that can affect other teachers, certainly students, maybe even all their families."

She is endlessly supportive. "I tell my students here at Averett — I will support you on this journey. You will be ready to tackle the challenges. Getting you to that point is my job."

Putting that promise to work, Horne took nine confident students to present papers — their own research — at a state conference last year. According to her, "They knocked it outta the park."

In fact, the Virginia Public Schools science coordinator went to them after the session and gave them his business cards, saying, "If any of you have trouble getting a job, just call me." He was impressed.

Obviously, Horne says, the students had been well prepared by the whole department, and the science conference was just one experience that added to their marketability, but of the nine who presented, two were job hunting. Both were hired within two weeks.

Nuggets of wisdom emanate easily from her: "My job is not to tell you [students] what to think but to make you think." And "every decision we make as teachers should be based on what do the students need, not what do we like to do." Finally, for high school students considering enrolling at Averett to become teachers: "If you come here, you will get engaged on a personal level, and you will succeed."

She points out that the university offers "lots of help — diagnosis, intervention, remediation." A student was absent one day recently. She had another student call him on his cell phone to make sure he was OK. "I overslept," was his response.

Horne said, "tell him if he's not here on Wednesday, we'll be having class in the hall outside his room."

Helpful intervention.


Dr. Pam Riedel, '77, '81
Chair of the Department of Education
Director of Graduate Studies in Education
Professor of Education

Riedel teaches undergraduate and graduate courses including reading and language development, educational psychology and special education courses. She was instrumental in bringing the education honor society Alpha Zeta Alpha Chapter of Kappa Delta (KDP) Pi International Honor Society to Averett. She serves as counselor to the society.

Her research interests include teacher effectiveness, classroom management, inclusion and teach preparation. However, her primary research focus involves site-based action research within school environments conducted with her students. She is currently engaged in a series of scholarly projects with the Department of Education to create a five year degree program leading toward dual teacher licensure in PK-6 liberal studies and special education-general K-12, with a certificate in autism from the Virginia Autism Council. Upon completion of the program, students will receive graduate and undergraduate degrees.

She is a member of several professional organizations including Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in education; International Reading Association; Council for Exceptional Children; and Oxford Roundtable, Oxford University, England. In addition, she is the author, co-author and director of many grant programs in clinical faculty teacher mentoring, higher education service delivery for students with disabilities and special education leadership preparation.

Riedel received her bachelor's degree in elementary education/reading teacher K-12 as well as a master's in education degree in reading specialization from Averett. She has an educational doctorate and education specialist degree in educational administration and special education from The College of William and Mary. Riedel has also completed graduate studies at the University of Virginia leading toward endorsements in special education teacher licensure.


Dr. Sue Rogers
Professor of Education

Rogers taught at the elementary and junior high school levels prior to coming to Averett. She was also an adjunct professor at George Mason University.

During her tenure at Averett she has served on various University committees including pretenure and posttenure for fellow professors, the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, the General Education Committee and the Adult Studies Committee.

In addition to her work at Averett, Rogers finds time to participate in community organizations. She is a member of: Bookshelf, a bookclub consisting of local public school and university educators; the Garden Club of Danville; Wednesday Club of Danville; and the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History where she is a sponsor level member.

She has conducted several research projects and published her findings. Her articles include "From secondary to elementary: Crossing the bridge in use of content area reading strategies," which was presented at the 14th European Conference on Reading in Zagreb, Croatia in August 2005 and at the annual meeting of the College Reading Association in Delray Beach, Fla.

She is a member of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers, a review board member for the "Literacy Research and Instruction Journal," member of the Virginia College Reading Educators' Council and Virginia State Reading Council.

Rogers received an associate's degree from Stratford College, a bachelor's degree in history from Madison College and a master's degree in reading from Madison College. She received her educational doctorate in special education-reading from The American University.

English/ Communication & Journalism/ Modern Languages

Dr. Steve Ausband
Professor of English

Ausband's primary areas of teaching include 19th century English literature, American literature, mythology, modern literature and an array of survey courses. He has published more than 100 articles in both scholarly journals and popular magazines on subjects as diverse as meta-fiction, Romanticism, mythological themes in literature, ecology and outdoor recreation. His scholarly books include a study of myth, literature, and American culture and a study of the work and exploits of the 18th century writer, William Byrd. Ausband served as chair of the English department for many years, then as vice president for academic affairs, before returning to the English department as professor and chair in 2011.

He earned his bachelor of arts degree with honors in English from Guilford College and his master of arts and doctor of philosophy degree from Tulane University.


Barbara Clark
Chair of the Department of Modern Languages
Professor of Spanish
Joined Averett in 1992

Doctor of Philosophy, Romance Languages, Spanish American Literature, minor in Brazilian Literature, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Master of Arts, Romance Languages, Spanish American Literature, Binghamton University
Bachelor of Arts, Spanish, minor in history, College of St. Elizabeth


Dr. Barbara Clark has chosen to teach at Averett for the last 20 years because she values the relationships that the faculty members have with their students.

At Cornell University, where she taught for two years, it was assumed that all of the students would do well, both at the university and beyond, regardless of how they interacted with the faculty. "At Averett," Clark says, "we really have the chance to make a personal difference in their lives."

She adds that the Averett faculty members are very approachable, encouraging students to turn to them for help, and very aware of the fact that different students have different learning styles.

Clark also has taught at Washington and Lee University, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Wake Forest University … but she has chosen to stay at Averett, living in the appealing small town of Danville, since 1992.

That does not mean that she's always in town. Clark and her colleagues have been on multiple international trips with Averett students — including to Finland, Costa Rica and Russia — and her professional work has taken her to many cities in the U.S. and in other countries.

So far, Clark has studied and/or made academic presentations in Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Spain and Cuba.

"I have always been interested in other countries, other cultures," she says. "One of the appealing things about Averett is that our students come from all over the United States and all over the world. They often speak multiple languages, and they provide diversity to the campus."

Clark recalls one student who had been home-schooled in the mountains of Arkansas and had gone on a mission trip to Africa. "She came here for the aviation program, and she took a lot of Spanish courses. She met a student here from Finland, and they're married now — they've adopted kids from Brazil, and they're planning to take the whole family to live in Africa. She'll be a bush pilot and do missionary work."

The way Professor Clark says it, relishing the details, you wonder if she might not visit Africa herself someday.


Catherine "Katy" Clark
Assistant Professor of English and French
Joined Averett in 2010

Doctor of Philosophy, Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Master of Arts, Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Bachelor of Arts, English and French, Salem College

Certificate, Cours universitaire d’été (CUE), Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne, Paris, France
Graduate studies, L'École Française, Middlebury College, Vermont


You can't do it. It's simply not possible to spend more than two or three minutes with Dr. Katy Clark without getting swept up in her enthusiasm, her intelligence, her world perspective.

It's a wonderful state of mind, Dr. Clark's, where all things are connected, where everything is interesting and worth exploring.

She certainly has lived an interesting and diverse life. Consider:

  • A Texan by birth, she teaches both English and French.
  • She has taught in Paris and in Normandy.
  • She also has taught at Elon University and at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Before her graduate studies, Clark struck out on her own, with a backpack, and spent three months traveling across Europe to learn French firsthand.
  • She studied French formally at the Sorbonne (in Paris). The only American in her class, she rented an apartment on the Left Bank and walked to class.
  • She holds a black belt in taekwondo.

Not exactly a stodgy, pipe-smoking university professor.

She has chosen to teach at Averett because she likes the feel of a small, private school. "Being a graduate student at a large school was fine for me, but as a teacher [at UNC] I had students whom I connected with, but then never saw again once the class was done. At Averett, I have some students repeatedly — sometimes in English, sometimes in French — and the relationships we develop with our students are what allow us to be effective teachers."

Clark team teaches a class covering the literary landscapes of the 19th century with Dr. Gretchen Cohenour, assistant professor of English. In May 2011, they took eight students to study in France and England, spending a week in each country.

"When I was a student, I took an interdisciplinary course with two teachers who taught me how things connect," Clark says. "Those teachers were extraordinary. They expanded my world view."

This is what Dr. Clark now does for her students, daily, at Averett.


Gretchen Cohenour
Assistant Professor of English
Joined Averett in 2010

Doctor of Philosophy, English, The University of Rhode Island
Master of Arts, English; Master of Arts Certificate, Women’s Studies; Texas Tech University
Bachelor of Arts, English Literature, St. Edward's University


Dr. Gretchen Cohenour is, in her words, "thrilled to be teaching at Averett University." But wait … this is not just someone saying she enjoys her job. Cohenour has had an amazing life, so choosing Averett is a big deal.

She studied at Oxford University in England (she studied fencing. Yes, as in fencing with swords.); she fell down a good-sized waterfall while spelunking (exploring caves) on the border of Wales, but survived; and she has taught at several other places (Wartburg College, in Iowa; The University of Rhode Island; Three Rivers Community College, in Connecticut; Roger Williams University, in Rhode Island; and Texas Tech University).

See how she's been all over, doing a lot of interesting things? But she is thrilled to be at Averett because its small-school culture means that she can build meaningful relationships with her students.

"Students often thank us for being accessible," she says, "and that means having an open-door policy for office hours and for specific class work, of course, but it means more than that. I try to stay knowledgeable so that I can give good advice — I point out where the opportunities are in their career fields, and I help prepare them for graduate studies."

Cohenour adds that her team-teaching with Dr. Katy Clark is another reason she enjoys Averett. "This class that we offer together, Literary Landscapes of the 19th Century, lets French and English disciplines find things that we have in common. That exploration is part of the vision of our wonderful president, Dr. (Tiffany) Franks, who wants to see growth in new experiences for students, more team teaching, with faculty discovering overlaps and using new ways of delivering information to today's students."

The class involves a trip to France and England, marking Cohenour's fourteenth time to England and fifth time for a study abroad class.

No underground waterfalls are on the itinerary.


Dr. David Emerson Hoffman
Professor of English/Journalism & Communications

Hoffman has taught at Averett for more than 30 years. As a professor in the communication program he teaches writing courses including news/feature writing, editorial/opinion writing and magazine article writing. In addition, he teaches photography, digital media and media law and ethics.

When not teaching, Hoffman enjoys nature photography on the Danville Riverwalk Trail and walking with his English setter, Sadie.


Dr. Susan Huckstep
Assistant Professor of Journalism & Communications

Huckstep brings more than 17 years of experience in public relations and journalism into the classroom. She enjoys writing, photography, cheering for her favorite sports teams and experimenting with innovative teaching methods. Her writing has appeared in area publications, and her essays have been featured on WVTF-Public Radio.Huckstep has presented her research on the media's portrayal of poverty to audiences at the National Communication Association (NCA) and is a frequent participant in the NCA's HOPE conference for faculty development. In addition, she enjoys sharpening her photography skills with weekend photography workshops in places like Virginia's Tangier Island.

Huckstep serves as editor of The Averett Journal and advisor to the student-run Chanticleer News Media.

She holds a bachelor's degree in English/journalism/communication from Averett, a master's degree in communication studies from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a PhD in communication studies from Regent University.
averett faculty

Dr. Jane Wiseman
Associate Professor of English

Wiseman teaches Shakespeare, Milton and other early modern literature as well as Chaucer and a course in modern and contemporary literature. In addition, she teaches a course in literary theory and interpretation and has taught special seminars on women and literature and on fantasy literature. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she co-chairs the strategic planning committee for the University.

Her specialty is 16th century English literature. Her doctoral dissertation was on Edmund Spenser and she has presented at a number of national conferences on Spenser's works. She has also developed an expertise in modern literature and has published an article on Margaret Atwood in a peer-reviewed journal. She is interested in speculative literature of all kinds, an interest leading to an honors seminar on utopias and dystopias and a presentation at the conference of the Popular Culture Association in the South on the fantasy fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. She publishes a blog on utopian fiction, http://utopiary.wordpress.com.

Wiseman received her bachelor's degree from Duke University, her master's degree from the University of Illinois and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Equestrian Studies

Mark Burke
Adjunct Professor

Equestrian Studies, Burke teaches the Equine Reproduction course. Burke has 20 plus years in the equine reproduction field, having spent a great deal of his career in Texas working with Arabians. Burke, with his wife Deb, currently own and operate Amethyst Acres Equine Center, a full service reproduction center. Located in Buchannan VA, their farm specializes in standing competition stallions during the breeding season, artificial insemination, stallion rehabilitation and foaling of mares. Burke holds a Bachelors degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M.



Bailey Cook
Adjunct Instructor

Cook serves as an adjunct instructor, working with several classes including lunging and the dressage competition courses. Cook is a USDF Certified Instructor Training through Fourth Level, and a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist. She is also a faculty member for the USDF Instructor Certification Program. Cook is currently competing Foreigner, who she has owned since he was 2 1/2 yr. old, at the FEI level. Her most recent venture is training and showing sport ponies. Cook resides in Durham NC with her husband Dave.



Ginger Henderson '91
Chair of the Department of Equestrian Studies
Assistant Professor of Equestrian Studies
Coach of the Intercollegiate Dressage Team
Joined Averett in 2006

Master of Education, Agency Counseling, Lynchburg College
Postgraduate courses in Counseling, Longwood College
Bachelor of Science, Human Resource Development, Averett College
Associate of Applied Science, Horse Management and Production, Ohio State University

Certified Level III Dressage and Level I Eventing Instructor
Certified Mental Health and Equine Specialist
Licensed Mental Health Counselor


"Most of the students who come to our equine program," says Professor Ginger Henderson, "are addicted to riding." And yet, she adds, most of the good jobs are in the allied professions.

"Of course we're happy to get good riders," she says, "but we're also looking for students who simply want to work in the industry." According to Henderson, Averett equestrian students have, indeed, gone on to great jobs in related fields.

"We have graduates who are editors for equine journals, who work for equine insurance agencies, who are with equine marketing companies and who are professional trainers. Some work in equine nutrition, some go to vet school. It's a long list."

Henderson also points out that many Averett students double major, adding a second area of interest to equestrian studies. "We have a lot who also major in business, many also in biology, in communications … we even have a good number who add a criminal justice major, going on to work as mounted police officers."

Although riding and working with horses is, for most, rewarding enough, Henderson places a strong emphasis on careers after graduation, with internships playing a major role. "Internships are mandatory for the equestrian majors. They formally learn about the various careers that exist, and then they spend time researching internships to find one that is suitable for them, one that is directly related to what they want to do after graduation. They serve the internship usually in the summer following their sophomore or junior year."

Henderson understands firsthand the special nature of a life with horses. She lives on a farm with 10 horses of her own, and she admits that her love for the animals began early. "I was 6 years old when I took everything out of my closet so I could turn it into my horse room," she says with a laugh. "I moved in a little table and chair so I could sit in there and cut out pictures of horses. Then I stuck those on the closet walls to make horsy wallpaper."

And yes, she is addicted to riding.


Kathryn (Kit) Oakes

As the farm/stable manager, Oakes is responsible for overseeing the overall care and maintenance of the horses and the facility. She helps students learn what it takes to keep horses in top condition, from feeding to medicating. Oakes, who has been with the Averett Equestrian program for over 20 years, got her start working in a large animal veterinary practice where she gained a great deal of experience in equine health. Always dedicated to the well being of her animals, Oakes is known for instilling this same dedication to care in her students. Oakes shares a home with her husband, 4 cats, a bird and assorted other pets.




Elizabeth (Beth) Spencer
Adjunct Professor

Spencer teaches courses in the eventing concentration as well as coaching the Combined Training Team and co-coaching the IHSA team. Spencer received her Bachelors degree from Virginia Intermont College and is a certified instructor through USEA, the United States Eventing Association. In addition to her work at Averett, Spencer owns and operates Stoney Creek Stables in Caswell County NC. Spencer is currently competing her Irish Sport Horse, "Firewater", at the Intermediate level with an eye to move up to Advanced.




Dr. Rebecca Stinson

Dr. Rebecca Stinson began riding horses at the age of 8 and has competed in 4-H, Virginia Arabian Horse Association and Dressage shows.

Dr. Stinson graduated with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. Dr. Stinson's veterinary interests include equine lameness and performance medicine, ophthalmology, and complimentary medicine including acupuncture. Dr. Stinson completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society certification class in 2006 and enjoys using acupuncture and herbal therapy to enhance the response to traditional western medicine. Dr. Stinson is also very active in the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association where she is the chair of the Large Animal Medicine Committee, and has served on many committees and councils of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Stinson has a small farm which she shares with her husband, son, two dogs, two cats and her Oldenburg cross, Reno. Dr. Stinson and Reno look forward to the day when they can spend more time together.



Dr. Mark A Wallace
Adjunct Professor

Wallace teaches courses in Lameness and Disease, and Nutrition; as well as being the faculty sponsor of the Pre-vet Club. Dr. Wallace completed his veterinary degree at the University of Prince Edward Island and in 1997 he became board certified in large animal internal medicine by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. Wallace has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals relating to various aspects of large animal medicine.

His special veterinary interests include equine lameness, colic and neurologic conditions but he practices and enjoys all areas of equine medicine. Dr. Wallace performs consultation work for a number of pharmaceutical companies and has participated in clinical trials for a variety of new equine drugs that are currently on the market. He also finds the time to speak at a number of meetings including the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association annual convention.

Mark and his wife Samantha live in Reidsville NC where they have several horses including a new foal they bred, "Grand Tourino".


History/Political Science

Dr. Jack Hayes
Chair of the Department of History and Political Science
Professor of History

Since coming to Averett in 1974, Hayes has been active in the life of the University and the nation's academic community. He teaches all of the American history classes, the history of Great Britain and western civilization.

As a specialist in recent American history, Hayes' publications include "Dan Daniel and the Persistence of Conservatism in Virginia" (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997, 258 pages); "South Carolina and the New Deal" (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001, 290 pages) - in 2002 it was nominated for the Littleton-Griswold Prize, which is given by the American Historical Association; "The Lamp and the Cross: A History of Averett College, 1859-2001" (Macon, Mercer University Press, 2004, 251 pages); and numerous entries in the Dictionary of Virginia Biography and the South Carolina Encyclopedia.

During his tenure at Averett he has served on various committees and sponsored student organizations including: the Baptist Student Union, three presidential search committees, faculty representative to the NCAA and chaired the faculty council.

In addition to participating in campus activities, Hayes is also active in local, state and regional affairs. He has served as lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis clubs in Central and Western Virginia; as president and secretary of the Danville Kiwanis Club; president and secretary of the Salvation Army Advisory Board; and secretary of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Hayes earned his bachelor of arts degree from Hampden-Sydney College, his master of arts degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and his doctor of philosophy degree from the University of South Carolina.


Simona Kragh
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Joined Averett in 2009

Doctor of Philosophy, Political Science, The University of South Carolina
Master of Arts, Political Science, Marquette University
Master of Arts, Journalism, Marquette University
Bachelor of Arts, International Politics, Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan, Italy)


No matter what your definition of "average" is, Dr. Simona Kragh is not your average teacher. Originally from Italy, she is a retired 2nd Lieutenant in the Italian Armed Forces, trained in emergency and elective surgery, internal medicine and OB/GYN, as well as search-and-rescue. Now she is totally committed to teaching political science at Averett.

Her service experience makes her a better teacher, she feels. "It gave me a very practical way of approaching problems, of getting right to the core of what you need to do."

Kragh says that she has been a devotee of politics since the age of 12: "I was given an assignment for the summer, in grade school. We were supposed to look at newspaper articles and provide summaries and analyses. It turns out that I loved the reading so much that I couldn't get enough newspapers to satisfy my curiosity. Then, about that time, I got a book on Hannibal and war strategy. Oh, boy."

That sealed the deal for her. Note that we're not talking about Hannibal Lecter; this is Hannibal, the ancient military commander and tactician. "That book showed me cause and effect — the leader will do this under these conditions or that under other conditions. It all came together, and I was completely hooked."

Then, in 1980, came, as she puts it, "a bolt of lightning — the United States presidential election. I was engulfed in reading and studying about that whole process. I am incredibly grateful for my teachers for pointing me to that; I will never forget."

Her Averett students remember her, as well, as one who guides them to analyze and, as she puts it, "not just download the opinions of others. Once they learn to think on their own, then they can do the work … and they know it. If any students do need help, we make sure they get it. They leave here prepped, either for graduate school or a good job."

It's quite clear that America and Averett are exactly where she wants to be … and belongs.


Bill Trakas
Professor of History
Director of the Honors Program
Joined Averett in 1980

Graduate Study, University of Munich (Fulbright Scholar), New York University
Doctor of Philosophy, History, University of Wisconsin — Madison
Master of Arts, History, University of Wisconsin — Madison
Bachelor of Arts, French, Furman University


Likable and articulate Professor of History Dr. Bill Trakas has just one word for what history was to him when he was in high school: "boring." In fact, he admits that he avoided taking history classes in college because he was still bored from high school.

"But I had to take some history to graduate," he concedes, "and, fortunately, I had one college professor who made it really come alive." That professor was a game-changer, as it turns out: "When I thought about spending a lifetime teaching [which he did want to do], it dawned on me that I found history to be very interesting." Quite a surprise.

As a history professor himself — and the head of Averett's Honors Program — Trakas has found many ways to make history very interesting indeed. When he has a class studying Russian history, he invites them to his house for borscht (a Russian soup made with beets). He often takes small discussion groups to local restaurants to meet, just because a relaxed setting off-campus can foster greater participation. And he and his wife invite all students in the (required) class on western civilization to their house for a dinner.

One of his primary teaching techniques, however, is to combine travel with traditional study. He sees cities as living textbooks, and he encourages students — especially those in the Honors Program — to travel.

Averett's honors students have researched the history and culture of many cities — from Charleston, S.C., and Washington D.C., to Vienna, Austria, and Munich, Germany — in depth, using texts, periodicals, novels, even movies, and then they have actually gone there in person … to interact with locals and learn about the areas firsthand.

In May 2013, Trakas and others will take students to Florence, Italy, for 2-3 weeks. The students will have studied both the city and Italian history in general, and they will likely take a course in Renaissance art while they are there.

Trakas loves it all: "It is the teaching and personal connections with students that are important to me and to other Averett faculty members," he says. "We are genuinely fond of the students here, and we support them in our classes, on the athletic fields and off-campus."

Mathematics & Computer Science


Dr. Donald T. Ethington
Chair of the Department of Mathematics
Professor of Mathematics

Doctor of Philosophy: mathematics, University of Georgia. Dissertation directed by Dr. Thomas Brahana.
Master of Science: mathematics, Mississippi State University. Thesis directed by Dr. Robert Heller.
Bachelor of Arts: mathematics and English, Centre College (of Kentucky).

Expertise: Algebra and analysis.

Dr. Ethington enjoys the brilliant, beautiful, and challenging ideas one encounters in mathematics on a daily basis and he enjoys working with the many wonderful students at Averett, helping them mature into young mathematicians who are able to learn on their own by the time they graduate. He believes that one learns mathematics by doing mathematics on a regular basis. He gives students ample opportunity to show what they know.

In his opinion, the analytical skills one develops and uses in mathematics are not unlike those used when analyzing a poem, short story, play, or a novel. In other words, these skills have universal application.

He particularly enjoys hearing from former students about how Averett has made a difference in their lives.

Dr. Ethington was the first recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Member award in 1987-88 and received it again in 2003-2004, becoming the first two-time recipient of the award.

Question: How strong is your intuition? Can you always rely on it?

Consider the following problem: Suppose the earth is a perfect sphere, with a perfectly smooth surface, and you wrap a piece of wire around the equator, obtaining a circle. Take this open circle of wire, weld 3 feet of additional wire to it to form another circle. Then, using small sticks, prop up the new circle of wire uniformly off the ground around the equator. Here is the big question: Can a chicken walk under the wire? (Translation: How high off the ground is the wire?) What does your intuition tell you? What does the mathematics tell you?

A related problem: Do a similar thing with a basketball, a piece of wire, and still add 3 feet. Take the chicken, put stickum on its feet, and stick the chicken on the basketball. Now, can the chicken walk under the wire on the basketball? Hmmm?

Lemery Steve Lemery
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science
Joined Averett in 1981

Master of Science, Mathematics, The University of Arizona
Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics, Southern Illinois University


"I know I'm a geek,” says Professor Steve Lemery, but he can't help it. It began with a pencil in the fifth grade. "When I was in elementary school, I won a pencil prize for reciting prime numbers up to 100. I've been a math geek ever since."

He also realizes that people like him (yes, "geeks") often prefer to be on their own, and he helps get his students past that. "I have my students work in small groups, specifically to avoid falling into the natural isolation tendency of the discipline. I have them go to the board often to explain things, basically making informal presentations. Eventually, some do honors presentations in math."

He mentions that he had a couple of foreign students — one from Asia and one from a country that used to be in the Soviet Union — who "began as shy and geeky, isolated, and by the time we finished with them they were speaking in class, involved in clubs, doing things like helping out at Homecoming events. Some really high-achieving high school students can go to almost any college or university and succeed. Many of our students come here and thrive, whereas they would not do as well at other schools."

If you ask an Averett student who Lemery is, the likely answer will be, "The Skittles Prof." See, he does this thing with Skittles or M&Ms …

"We use candy with letters on one side. Shake 'em up and pour them out, then eat [Yes!] the ones with a letter showing. Repeat the process with the ones remaining, and just keep doing it. Plot all the numbers, and the data form a curving diminishing pattern. With modern calculators, you can plug in the data points and get the equation that describes the phenomenon."

He explains that the Skittles procedure has many applications. You can do a similar thing, for instance, with the numbers for people who have had this year's cold. Plot all of it, and you have a mathematical analysis for use in epidemiology. Plus, you've had a good bit of candy.



Susan E. Osborne
Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Master of Operations Research: engineering, North Carolina State University.
Master of Arts: mathematics, Wake Forest University.
Bachelor of Science: mathematics and business administration/accounting, Averett University.

Diploma: general electronics, Danville Community College

Mrs. Osborne is always seeking new tools for her toolbox. Not hammers, pliers and other physical tools, but mathematical principles and concepts. These tools are problem solving tools that can be applied in businesses and industries of all types. What can these mathematical tools do?  They can allow a superstore to set lower prices than any other store, determine the best possible location for a new fire station, or design a box that holds a specific volume but uses the least material.  They can schedule workers for a set of tasks, determine the best design for waiting lines in a bank, improve the quality of products through quality control and much more.

Can every problem be solved?  This depends on what you mean by a solution. Sometimes we can accept an approximate answer as good enough rather than spend an enormous amount of time to obtain the exact solution.  Occasionally, a problem can be particularly difficult to solve and, perhaps, it is even impossible to determine an exact answer.  When this is the case, the applied mathematician can build a mathematical model and use technology such as computer simulations to find an acceptable solution. Computers can run the simulations hundreds and even thousands of times in a brief time frame. Using statistics, the simulations can give a very good estimated answer. Mathematics is an essential key in today's business and industries. Filling your toolbox with good mathematical concepts can put you ahead of others in the workforce. Of course, just like with physical tools, one must start with simple tools and work toward using "power" tools. So come and get started discovering a new set of tools for your toolbox!



Ms. Tonja Motley Locklear
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
ABD: mathematics education, University of Kentucky.

Master of Science: mathematics, Wake Forest University.
Bachelor of Arts: mathematics with teacher licensure at the secondary level, Averett University.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" If someone had asked me that when I was 16 or 17 years old, I would have answered - a math teacher. However, if someone had told me that I would be pursuing a doctorate in Math Education 24 years later, I would never have believed them. Having lived all but three years of my life in this southern region of Virginia, my dreams and goals were constructed within the limited framework of what my experiences taught me during those first 16 years. Fortunately, I allowed new experiences and knowledge of others in my life to help me create this life I am currently living, but could never have imagined.

My journey actually began at Averett University when my math professor encouraged my pursuit of a Master's degree in mathematics. At the time, I remember not even knowing what that meant, but I felt confident in his assessment of my abilities. After graduating from Averett in 1991 with a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics with Secondary Teacher Certification (ultimately reaching my initial goal to teach math), I pursued and received my Master's Degree in Mathematics from Wake Forest University in 1993. Since that time, I have continuously enjoyed teaching mathematics in a variety of settings: middle school, alternative high school, traditional high school, and college.

Everyone sets goals for themselves and requires others throughout this journey of life to assist in not only achieving those goals but also in surpassing them. Averett provided the necessary environment to help me cultivate my talents, peak my curiosity about the world and its inhabitants, and assist me in setting my sights to unknown possibilities. I am fortunate to be in a position now to PAY IT FORWARD!


Gary Tucker '85
Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science
Joined Averett in 1991

Graduate Study, Computer Science, Nova Southeastern University
Doctor of Philosophy, Mathematics, Duke University
Master of Arts, Mathematics, Duke University
Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, Biology/Chemistry, Averett College


America landed a man on the moon and created "Star Trek." Those two things were more than enough to get Dr. Gary Tucker interested in science when he was just a boy.

He went to K-Mart when he was in middle school, and he found chemistry books for $1. He bought and devoured those. Then he found they had books on mathematics and calculus. Completed both of them. When he got to high school, he took a geometry class. Guess what book he found at home — yes, geometry.

The book at home taught him how a formal geometry proof should look, and when he turned in his first proof, it was perfect. The geometry teacher sent him to the back of the room — in a good way: "You just sit back there and work on your own. You'll be fine."

He knew he had found his calling.

When Tucker was a sophomore at Averett (then called Averett College), the school began offering computer science. That was a natural fit for him, and he is now a professor of computer science.

Although he clearly loves (and teaches) both math and computer science, he does issue an interesting warning: "Math books don't get obsolete, but computer things do. It's Windows 7 now, but it will be 8 when they graduate and 9 about 10 minutes later. So I give them the Google Earth view of computer science. If they want to drill down, into the current details of today, that's up to them. Definitely the most important thing I do is teach them how to learn."

He also works to develop his students' presentation skills: "Every other Friday, they do presentations, summarizing news stories to the class. We do that in every upper-level IT course, because if you're getting a degree in computer science, you'll likely be the head of a computer science group someday. That means you'll need to stand up and talk in public, asking for budget money, justifying your requests, presenting a case."

Tucker currently is expanding internship opportunities for the math and computer science students, and their presentation skills will likely be put to use there, even before graduation.


Gail Allen
Chair of the Department of Music
Professor of Music
Joined Averett in 1976

Doctor of Education, Music Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Master of Music, Music Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Music Education, Music Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


The minute you meet Dr. Gail Allen, you know that this is a woman who was born to nurture students. She cares about them, their journey, their lives — a born teacher who is, she admits, an artist in her soul and a scholar in her mind.

Not only that, she actively embraces happiness.

"I'm at a point in my life where I seek joy in everything I do," she says, "and I'm lucky enough to be in a profession that gives it constantly."

Not taking anything away from other career paths, she poses this question: "I mean, really, do accountants sit at their desk at the end of the day and say 'Wow, that was so much fun!'? Because that's what I do after every performance. Music makes life wonderful."

Dr. Allen enthuses, "When I'm conducting a choir, there is just spontaneous joy. Even at times when I'm a bit discouraged, the joy button kicks in … and it's contagious. Everyone feels it."

She certainly knows about conducting choirs — she's taken Averett students to perform in Budapest, Hungary, and twice to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

She says that the trip to Budapest was the highlight of her career (so far). "We took 11 Averett students, and we performed all over — tiny churches in the countryside, many places where no English was spoken at all. The students were placed in various Hungarian homes for two weeks, and it was wonderful seeing their lives change, their awareness expanded."

Dr. Allen plays for a local church, in addition to teaching, and feels that it's helpful for students to have music professors actively engaged in the music profession, adding, "It's important to me that I can help them craft career paths. Making a difference in their lives is why I stay here."

She adds that she enjoys getting students of all different skill levels: "We can move students a long way from entry to graduation, and that's really exciting."


Anne Lewis
Associate Professor of Music
Joined Averett in 1988

Doctor of Musical Arts, Choral Conducting, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Master of Music, Music History and Literature, Baylor University
Bachelor of Music, Piano Pedagogy, Baylor University


"The music students at Averett," says Dr. Anne Lewis, "have big dreams. And they should. But sometimes, they come to us with very few of the tools needed to make those dreams a reality. So that's what we do — we help them create the necessary tools for their dreams."

She adds that all of the faculty members do that: "There is a deep commitment to the students; we do everything we can to help them succeed. Actually, the faculty members are very involved in campus life — they come to our music performances, they go to shows by the theatre department, they follow the athletic teams, they work with the various students clubs and go to honors presentations … they even serve midnight breakfast during exams."

Lewis still performs professionally, singing in the Bel Canto Company based in Greensboro, N.C., but she declares firmly, "Averett is home for me." She explains that although she had planned to be a professional coach and/or accompanist somewhere, "after one year of teaching here, I realized that I love sharing a sense of discovery with students. This is where I want to be."

That discovery process is one she clearly embraces, and sometimes she does so in unusual ways. "Yes," she admits, "I have had students juggle and sing at the same time. It's just one way to get them into the moment, to stop them from thinking about all that might go wrong and simply try to handle the immediate tasks. I also have them sing upside down."

What? "Oh, yes. Try it. If you're singing upside down, you'll see that it takes away any inhibitions, plus it gets you to breathe better. It actually allows the tone to fall out of the top of your head."

Lewis is also big on movement: "Another teaching tool. If they're moving, they're more relaxed. Performing calls for a relaxed state of alertness. You can't perform well if you're not relaxed."

Pointing her students in the right direction, giving them the tools to succeed, watching them make it happen: "That's why one keeps teaching," she says. "It’s so wonderful when they acquire the skills, and you see it happen."

Montgomery Dr. Tim Montgomery
Professor of Music

Experience: 35+ years in church music/sacred music; 24+ years at Averett

Doctor of education, music education, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Master of Church Music, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bachelor of Art, music, University of Richmond

Expertise: Sacred music/Church music, Children's music

Community Involvement and volunteer activities:
      Minister of music for various churches
     Substitute organist and choir director for 12+ years

Mary Condon
Chair of Nurse Education
Associate Professor of Nursing
Joined Averett in 2011

Graduate, Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, Bryn Mawr College
Doctor of Philosophy, Nursing, Adelphi University
Master of Science, Nursing, State University of New York at Buffalo
Bachelor of Science, Nursing, State University of New York at Buffalo


"Nurse Education is not about you," Dr. Mary Condon tells prospective nursing students, "it is about the person at the end of your hand."

With the patients' health always as the goal, Dr. Condon also offers some unexpected advice: "If you're going to become a nurse, you need to have fun in college!"

That's right … she said, "You need to have fun." Her explanation makes sense — life as a nurse is challenging as well as rewarding. It requires midnight shifts … and tremendous dedication, "so you need to have your fun while you're in college. You'll never have the chance to play college sports again, so if you want to play volleyball or soccer [or whatever] and study nursing, do it." In other words grab all the gusto you can.

In general, Condon always emphasizes the positive "We want students who have a positive attitude and who demonstrate compassion. We want them to be intellectually curious and hard working. But they also need to have a sense of humor. I tell them, don't get up each morning ready to eat nails. Be ready to laugh."

Dr. Condon herself tends to see the glass not as half full, but as half- to three quarters-full. You can do it all, she feels — keep up your grades and play sports, go out, make new friends. Then come to the nurse education classrooms to learn by doing in new labs and with high-tech simulation patients that are designed to respond just like human patients yet provide a safe learning environment.

"Our goal is to prevent mistakes. However, if student makes a mistake, it's much better that it occur in the labs," she says. "That's why we have simulation programming here. You can learn through hands-on experiences; yet if you do make an error, it won't cause harm."

The simulation approach also trains students in the importance of teamwork. "We've made it into one big suite, combining all sorts of things in one room – ICU, a birthing bed, neonatal, etc. — all together, so nursing students all talk to each other. Teamwork. It's so important. Errors occur when team communications fail."

Come in, have fun, gain hands-on experience, and we'll all learn from it. That is the basis of Dr. Condon's motto for students: "Come as you are, leave as you should be."

Physical Education

Dr. Richard Ferguson
Chair of the Department of Physical Education
Professor of Ehysical Education/Sport Psychology

Ferguson is a consultant certified by the Association of Applied Sport Psychology, and is listed on the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry. In addition to teaching on the college level, he is a mental training consultant to numerous professional, amateur and Olympic sport athletes. He has clients around the world including the Ragged Mountain Olympic Development Running Program.

He has written extensively on running psychology and is a contributor to a number of running publications, including "Running Journal" and "Run Ohio" magazines. He is also a contributing editor for "Running Journal." His recent publications include "The psychology of high performance track and field," and "Running Psychology."

Ferguson twice qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and is currently an international competitive Masters runner. He was the 2002 Road Runners Club of America National Champion at 15K in the 40-44-year-old age group. He represented the United States in the 2009 World Masters Track and Field Championships in Lahti, Finland where he placed 19th in the marathon in the 50-60-year-age group. In the summer of 2010, he was the overall champion in the Boucle de Jambonade Mountain Race in Pouzac, France.

Ferguson received his bachelor's degree in physical education from James Madison University and his master's and doctoral degrees in sport psychology from the University of Virginia.

running journalDr. Richard Ferguson, chair and professor in the physical education wellness and sport science department, had an article published in "Running Journal." To read his article visit Running Journal.


Barbara Kushubar, '75
Associate Professor of Physical Education, Wellness and Sport Science

Kushubar brings more than 24 years of experience that includes teaching, coaching and sport administration, into the classroom. She provides students with not just a theoretical approach to subjects like sport management, sport administration and sport law but draws on her years of experience as a successful coach and tournament organizer to bring these subjects to life. Students benefit from her practical advice and draw on examples from her own personal experiences. In her introduction to athletic training class, students gain hands-on experience by completing training hours as early as their freshman year. Gerontology students learn from trips to local care facilities and interact with professionals working in the field.

Always a competitor, Kushubar remains active in local golf and tennis organizations. In addition, she models the importance of community service with involvement in The First Tee Foundation, Danville City Schools Health Board and other local charitable and sports organizations. She serves as a consultant to local schools in the development of health/wellness programs for students.

Kushubar holds a bachelor's degree in health/physical education/wellness from Averett and a master's degree in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy.


Dr. Michelle Hsiu-Chen Liu
Assistant Professor of Physical Education Teacher Education

Liu's research focuses on the social development of children through the implementation of a physical education teaching model. Her primary goals are to: help pre-service teachers develop professional knowledge and skills for the classroom; provide a variety of practical teaching experiences for pre-service teachers to apply their classroom learning to real-world teaching; and help pre-service teachers establish positive relationships with local schools.

She co-authored an article in 2010 entitled "Teaching Kindergarten Learning-Related Social Skills through a Modified Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility Model," which was published in The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. She has made presentations at the National Physical Education Teacher Education conference in Myrtle Beach, and at the Association Internationale des Ecoles Superieures d'Education Physique conference in Sapporo, Japan.

She has taught a wide range of students, from kindergarten to the university level, between Taiwan and the United States. In addition to teaching, she played women's fast-pitch softball at the national level for Taiwan and coached fast-and slow-pitch softball at the college level. She participated in several national and international women's fast-pitch softball competitions and was awarded the National Fast-Pitch Softball Player of Taiwan from 1986-93.

Liu received her bachelor's degree in physical education from Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan, a master of education degree in human performance/health promotion from the University of New Orleans and a doctorate degree in sport pedagogy from the University of Idaho.


Anna Hatten
Chair of the Department of Psychology
Professor of Psychology
Joined Averett in 1977

Doctor of Philosophy, Experimental Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Master of Arts, Experimental Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, Mercer University


"I was a lazy student," admits Dr. Anna Hatten. "I remember in the seventh grade, the science teacher had to keep me after school. I loved the science, but I wouldn't write answers to the homework questions. Lazy."

Things changed, finally, when she went to college. "When I was in undergraduate school, I got with some friends who were interested in psychology, and the chair of the department was very charismatic. I fell in love with psychology then. After all, psychology is how you understand human behavior."

She also met and fell in love with a fellow psychology student, Jean Hatten, now her husband and also a psychology professor at Averett.

"When I came to Averett, the faculty seemed like a family, and that was important to me. About two years later, my husband joined the faculty. That was the first year Averett hired spouses."

Both Hattens are deeply committed to Averett. "We felt, during the early years and now, that we have built something good here. At first, we wanted a graduate program, but we soon realized that we really need a strong undergraduate program. And, with both of us being experimental, we were interested in the research the students did. So our plan was to get the students involved in some kind of research."

That's important. It means that if you are a psychology major, you will do some (interesting) research, and you will present your findings in public.

"First we give them the tools to do presentations, then — starting in their junior year — they do them. Almost all of the graduates in psychology who go onto graduate school say they were accepted because of their research.

Hatten adds that when graduates of other universities go to graduate school, often they are told to come up with an idea for an experiment … and they freak out.

Averett psychology graduates, however, having already done their own research and made presentations on it, are, she says, "pre-freaked."

That's a good thing.



Jean Hatten
Professor of Psychology
Joined Averett in 1981

Doctor of Philosophy, Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Master of Arts, Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, Mercer University


At the latest Averett Homecoming event, one recent graduate went up to Dr. Jean Hatten and said: "You know, I'm really glad you made me learn all that spreadsheet stuff [the former student's word, not Dr. Hatten's] — it’s been very helpful in my job."

Hatten has found that the analytical skills his psychology students acquire, as well as specific spreadsheet skills — are, indeed, helpful to all of his students, regardless of what they do immediately following graduation.

"At this point," he says, "about 35 percent of our psychology majors go right to graduate school, and we prepare them very strongly for that. But the skills they get here are directly applicable to the world of work, as well."

He adds that all of the Averett faculty members are genuinely dedicated to seeing that their students succeed: "The faculty tend to be committed to the students as individuals, as well as to the university. Students here get a lot of one-on-one attention from the faculty."

Hatten likes the variety of students at the school: "We have some older students, a lot of first-generation [first in their family to go to college] students, and, of course, traditional students. It's a diverse group."

The department takes psychology majors in their junior year to a regional psychology conference, as members of the audience. Then they return to Averett and design their own research projects.

"We've taught a lot of students how to do research," he says. "They have a research design course, they implement their own projects, they correct any errors, and then they present their results in poster sessions. And you know, a lot of them discover that at that point, they know more about their research than anyone else does."

Hatten also has begun a new program at Averett, designing websites through courses taken in psychology, art and computer science … with advisors from all three departments. "That was an elective at first, but now it’s a full-fledged program," he says.

Using psychology to build a better website — another example of a dynamic department.


David I. Rosenberg
Professor of Psychology
Joined Averett in 1995

Doctor of Philosophy, Counseling Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Master of Science, Counseling Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, University of Virginia

Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Certified Equine Assisted Psychotherapist


All it takes is a moment — simply watch Dr. David Rosenberg walk across campus, notice how often he's stopped by a variety of students, observe how he interacts with them all personally, sincerely … obviously interested in their concerns. That's all it takes to know that Rosenberg is a born teacher.

A natural teacher who was born, interestingly enough, in Mexico City. "On occasion I'll speak Spanish with my mother," he says, "but I don't have a strong command of the language so I don't feel like I'm truly bilingual. I was also raised in northern Virginia."

Rosenberg was teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University when he saw an opening at Averett, seeking a psychologist with clinical experience, someone to focus on the applied (not experimental) side of psychology. He visited, got the job and has no intention of leaving.

"Honestly, I knew I wanted to be in a place that valued teaching, not where the professor's entire life centers around research," he says. Licensed as clinical psychologist in 1996, he feels strongly that his private practice (he holds a quarter-time position with a counseling services group) keeps him current: "When I teach abnormal psychology, for instance, I'm able to use real issues, real [anonymous] case studies. It makes a big difference."

Rosenberg is a tireless health and wellness advocate; a nonstop teacher. He is a certified T'ai Chi Fundamentals instructor, a certified Reiki (Japanese Relaxation Therapy) master instructor, an Eden Energy Medicine Certified Practitioner (integrating energy medicine with other practices, including psychotherapy) and a certified Equine Assisted Psychotherapist, just to mention a few.

"It's all about wellness," he says. "Psychology in the 21st century continues to evolve as a health profession, and my passions are health and teaching. The goal, of course, is to combine those every day with as many students as possible. If one twenty-something person gets it — that is, understands the relationships among therapies, energy, spirituality, intuition, physical and emotional health— you see the awareness of healing revealed in their eyes. That's fantastic. That's huge."


Bill Trimyer
Professor of Religion
Joined Averett in 1987

Doctor of Ministry, Theology and Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
Master of Divinity, Pastoral Care, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Master of Arts, Counseling Psychology, Goddard College
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Religion, Georgetown College
Associate in Arts, Liberal Arts, Bluefield College


With all the lights turned off in the classroom, Dr. Bill Trimyer starts playing music from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and then makes a full-costume thriller of an entrance from behind a curtain, dancing the Jackson choreography.

The students go crazy, but it's all just part of a class on death and dying that Trimyer co-teaches with Dr. Steven Wray — a class filled with surprises and packed with useful knowledge.

Both professors wear lab coats when they do a lecture on autopsies, just one more little touch that makes this the largest (as in most popular) class on campus.

Trimyer also takes students on international trips — including Israel, Egypt, Greece and Turkey  — and to a nearby 700-acre yoga center, where they see what it's like to eat and breathe meditation in a temple. (But not really eat, not there. "On those trips, I take them to Wendy's.")

He praises Averett students, including the athletes. "I always say, if you're not quite good enough to play at Duke, Averett is your second choice."

In addition to teaching at Averett, Trimyer has worked as a trauma center counselor, has served as a church pastor, has been in charge of the university's personal counseling … and is something of an amateur archaeologist. But being professor of religion at Averett, he says, "is the best job I've ever had."

He explains, "It's a small university, so faculty tend to stay here [unlike faculty members at large universities who are more prone to accepting jobs elsewhere], and I really enjoy the people I work with. Our students come here because in a small setting, they can find themselves, discover who they really are. Our faculty help them do that, help them feel at home so that discovery can begin."

Sociology/Criminal Justice

Rebecca Clark
Professor of Sociology
Faculty Athletic Representative
Joined Averett in 1989

Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology, Arizona State University
Master of Arts, Sociology, Arizona State University
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology, Stratford College


"That's my elephant," says Dr. Rebecca Clark, proudly gesturing to a photo of an admittedly handsome animal framed and hanging on her office wall.

She was traveling with Averett students and other faculty members in East Africa at the time, studying aspects of several disciplines — including learning firsthand about the culture of a Maasai tribe — and the jaw-dropping memories still make her smile … especially that one elephant that almost got a little too close. In fact, she's returning in a few months, taking other students on a similar trip.

"Last time we flew to London and then to Nairobi; this time we're going first to Amsterdam and then heading straight to Mt. Kilimanjaro." You can tell from her obvious delight that she can't wait to get back. The students who are going are likely visiting East Africa for the first time, but Clark already knows how wonderful it is, knows how the learning can take place.

"Teaching is what I enjoy most," she says, "and that includes our activities both inside and outside the classroom." Athletics joins travel as part of the outside-the-classroom activities Clark is involved with. "Every year at Christmastime I feed the basketball teams at my house. We have the men one day, the women another. Thank heavens my colleagues help me manage those meals."

Clark was the university's cheerleading director for 11 years ("I have gray hairs named after cheerleaders," she laughs.), and currently she is helping to establish a mentor program to integrate academics and athletics. "We want to have a faculty member identified with every athletic team," she explains. "It will let athletes see faculty in a different light, and it can help faculty understand more of the athletes' time-management challenges."

She keeps in touch with Averett graduates, athletes and non-athletes, primarily through social media. "Most of my friends on Facebook are former students," she says, "even the cheerleaders I have gray hairs named after."

Odds are her photos section features at least one shot of her elephant.


Laura Hartman
Professor of Sociology/Criminal Justice
Joined Averett in 1998

Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin
Master of Arts, Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology, Arizona State University
Associate of Arts, French, Cuyahoga Community College


Several of Dr. Laura Hartman's sociology students have been in prison, and she drove them there. Literally drove them, for a field trip.

"The staff members do a great job with our tours," she says enthusiastically. "It's not a
'Scared Straight' approach, where the prisoners are out to scare kids into the straight life. In these visits, the talk is informative for the students."

She explains, "Our sociology students learn about the daily operations and activities of the prison, and they also have the opportunity to discuss with a select group of inmates factors that the convicts feel contributed to their incarceration. Among other topics, we talk about what things we might be able to do to prevent the inmates from going down the wrong path."

She adds that the inmates tell them that it's unusual to have an opportunity to be listened to so seriously, and they appreciate the visits.

In fact, it was a field trip that hooked Dr. Hartman originally, getting her interested in sociology: "I had taken an 'Intro to Sociology' class at a community college, and we did a field project at the juvenile court. We studied a case, took a tour, learned about the court
… and I found it all fascinating."

It was in graduate school, at UT-Austin, that Hartman realized that she did not want to work at, as she puts it, "an institution that emphasizes research. I much prefer to teach."

She likes the Averett students — their minds and their personalities. "Our students are gentle, kind, likable young people. Most of them are willing to keep an open mind, which is very helpful. For instance, even if they didn't necessarily want to take the class, they're still willing to give it a try."

That's usually all it takes.


Steven Wray
Professor of Sociology/Criminal Justice
Joined Averett in 1987

Juris Doctor, Washington and Lee University
Doctor of Philosophy, Medical Sociology/Social Gerontology, University of Florida
Master of Education, Adult Education/Social Sciences, University of Florida
Bachelor of Education, Secondary Education/Social Sciences, University of Florida

Post Graduate Studies:
Forensic Death Investigation, New York University Postgraduate School of Medicine
Homicide Investigation, Southern Police Institute, University of Louisville
Russian Studies, Harvard University


Dr. Steven Wray can't help you learn to fire weapons, but if you're interested in working in law enforcement, he's your man for the other training you need. "If you graduate from our program with a B or C average," he says, "you'll be scoring right at the top of the entrance tests that police academies give. Written tests, not shooting."

The best part is, even though the first course in criminal justice is a junior-level offering, Wray offers a Crime Scene Investigation class … to freshmen.

"I use actual crime cases, with great photographs, from my [forensic] work in New York," he says, "and the students walk through things virtually, looking for clues left and right. They learn what it takes to conduct an investigation successfully."

Sociology plays a role, as well, he says, "Sociology is the place where data collection and analysis in criminal justice come from. Also, all police departments desperately want to hire people who can write that way, with training in sociology."

Wray says that at least six Averett graduates have gone on to the FBI. Some did basic police work first, then served as detectives and then went to the FBI. Another graduate was also in the aviation program and now is in the FBI, flying the Texas border. "We have a lot of aviation students — many in criminal justice want to fly, and we learned that the FBI thought it makes sense to hire agents who already knew how to fly. So we've put together that double major."

He adds that one recent female graduate did a double major, criminal justice and sociology, and she's now working with a federal crime program pursuing serial killers.

With his extensive background in crime investigation — and an irrepressibly wicked sense of humor — every Wray class will be interesting, no matter what your major is.


Richard Breen, '81
Professor of Theatre
Joined Averett in 1996

Master of Fine Arts, Theatre Performance, Western Illinois University
Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, Averett College


A funny thing happened to Professor Richard Breen in the fourth grade — he took third place in a talent show, and it changed his life. He was only in the fourth grade and it was just a third place finish, but he was hooked. He knew then that his life was, with caps, On The Stage.

And so it is. He says that his parents were always supportive of that life for him, even back in grade school, and now — as an adult — he has "the best of both worlds: I get to teach theatre to young people, and in the summers I get to go play."

When he says, "go play," he means that he performs on various stages around the country, honing his craft. There are times when he performs at Averett, as well, and the students all benefit from that experience.

"It's a great way to teach," he says, "when students can learn by direct observation." They also observe and learn when the theatre department takes them each year to Broadway shows. The trips to New York City are treated as a formal class project — the students study the shows in advance, write papers about the productions, etc.

Performing on Broadway is not the only measure of success, adds Breen. Theatre graduates succeed in many other ways: "Some have graduate studies as a goal, some want to teach, many plan to work in the technical end of theatre. And we have a lot of double majors — students who have another field of expertise, just for career safety."

He adds that his biggest challenge often is not simply to develop his students' skills, but also to get them to believe in themselves. "As they gain self-confidence, they begin to explore, to take chances, to discover. It's a wonderful, creative process."

The Averett theatre students share one important thing with Professor Breen: They feel that theatre is their home.


Jackie Finney '80
Professor of Theatre
Joined Averett in 1994

Master of Fine Arts, Theatre Design, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Science, Theatre, Averett College


Way back when he was in high school, Professor Jackie Finney played Curly in "Oklahoma!" During rehearsals, an Averett professor visited the school to do a workshop on makeup for the production.

That eventually led to Finney enrolling at Averett. "Once I was here, I got interested in all kinds of theatre, and I soon realized that theatre was always to be a part of my life."

Finney is aware, though, that theatre is a tough profession, so he works to give students the best possible advice: "We help our students discover their strengths and realize the challenges. We look at contingency plans."

Finney recently had a biology/theatre major who was thinking of dropping biology because she felt more involved with theatre. His advice? Try to keep both. At least take as many biology classes as possible, just to be well rounded.

"We work to personalize the program for each of our students," he says. "We even have an end-of-year review with every theatre major, one at a time. We ask how are you doing, how are we doing — what can we do for you? What are your aspirations and how can we help you?"

The department also helps find theatre work, even for current students. "When touring companies come through town, we try to get our students placed as workers on the crew. They help set up the show, and they learn a lot … including about life on the road. We're at a point now where some of the professional companies call ahead and hire through us before they reach town."

Technical theatre people, actors, stage managers … they're all in the Averett theatre program (not everyone is meant to play Curly). "We have what I call real students here," says Finney, "not just J. Crew cutouts. Our students study all the aspects of theatre, and they bring such a variety of different backgrounds and experiences to the program that we all benefit. The rich diversity of the students is one great feature of this university."