2020 Homecoming Award Recipients Named at Averett University

Posted on October 19th, 2020 by Matt Bell

For the first time in Averett University’s history, alumni and Averett friends across the world celebrated the annual homecoming traditions virtually with “Averett University 2020 Homecoming @ Home.”

“We were disappointed we could not all gather together and celebrate Homecoming in person this year, but take solace in knowing that so many hold Averett near and dear in their hearts,” said Averett Alumni Director Dan Hayes. “Our current students, to whom I refer as being in our ‘Alumni in Residence’ program, will carry on the Averett traditions with pride when we are able to be together in person again.”

As part of its annual festivities, the University honored six alumni with Distinguished Alumni and Service Awards and inducted seven alumni into the Athletics Hall of Fame. The full video of the recognition ceremony, which aired on Averett’s social media channels on Saturday, Oct. 17, can be found here.

The Mary Jo Davis Outstanding Alumni Award recipient for 2020 was the entire graduating Class of 2020. Accepting the award on behalf of the 2020 class was former senior class president and new alumnus Devin Merritt ’20 and class secretary Breanna Murphy ’20.

The class was honored for its resilience during an unprecedented time. Even during a global pandemic, and formerly through Tropical Storm Michael two years ago, the students of the Class of 2020 found myriad ways to be successful despite seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Presented the Frank Campbell Service Award was Laura Dell ’87. Dell is credited among her peers for keeping alumni together and in communication with one another.

“Laura is part of a group of 11 of us who graduated from Averett in the 1980s and who have been making a point of getting together since we graduated,” wrote former classmate Andrea Hartnett ’87.

Another classmate, Sue “Dex” Shorter ’85 said, “Laura has been a driving force in nurturing those bonds of friendship that were initially established at Averett…lasting relationships that Dr. [Frank] Campbell would have agreed are an integral part of the Averett experience.”

The 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients were Catherine Alexander ’98 and Virginia House of Delegates 60th District Representative James Edmunds ’96.

Alexander is the executive director of child nutrition for Newport News Public Schools. It’s her goal to feed as many people as possible. After COVID-19 struck, she was able to seize federal funds to effectively eliminate meal charges for Newport News students. Prior to receiving those funds, six schools were still charging students for lunch. Also during the early days of the pandemic, Alexander coordinated an effort to make sure no children went hungry.

“In [three] days she coordinated with transportation and security to set up [seven] school sites and 18 bus routes to feed children that would go without breakfast and lunch. She is coordinating with ‘World Central Kitchen’ to feed supper three days a week, also,” wrote Newport News Public Schools Wellness and Child Nutrition Services Supervisor II Debora Paschall.

Representative Edmunds, in addition to his role in the Virginia General Assembly, is a farmer and businessman in Southside Virginia.

“He recently introduced legislation to allow us the opportunity to vote on amending our sales tax to help offset some of the cost of capital improvements to our public education buildings. This was no small feat considering the Dillon Rule and the anti-tax mentality at the time in Richmond,” wrote J. Brandon Scearce.

Kirk Bidgood is the Fugate-Davis Women’s Leadership Award recipient. The Fugate-Davis award was created to honor Averett’s tradition of encouraging and developing women leaders dating back to 160 years ago.

Bidgood, a trustee on Averett’s Board of Trustees, is being recognized for her leadership efforts throughout the Danville region. She has been on the boards of or leading several local non-profits over the years. Serving her native Danville, her efforts have been tireless and selfless.

The Recent Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient is Christopher Walton ’16, ’18.

Former classmate and friend of Walton, Jada Little, described Walton’s tenacity and work ethic as completely unmatched.

“Chris, along with being an incredibly hard worker, always aims to better his environment and those around him. In the time that I have known him, Chris has consistently looked for opportunities to get involved with as many things as possible and executes all things extremely well. His interest in serving others in his communities and fields of work is inspiring,” Little said.

Seven Averett graduates were inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame, including Chad Anderson ’02, Nicole Barringer ’15, ’17, Brandon Grogan ’13, ’14, Lisa Morris ’99, Todd Parsons, John Thrower ’12 and Ashley Washington ’12.