University Honors Outstanding Alumni

Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Webmaster

On Saturday, October 18, during Homecoming festivities, Averett honored several alumni for their contributions to the university as well as the community at large.

Violet M. Frith ’52 received the Mary Jo Davis Outstanding Alumnus Award, which is presented to an alumnus who has contributed to Averett and the community at large in the way that Mary Jo Davis did. Frith is not only a longtime donor; she is an active participant in Averett events, both in attendance and in letting others know about what is going on at the university. Frith also keeps up with her former classmates, arranging regular gatherings.

Four alumni were presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, including Dr. Lesia Banks ’88, Senator Phil Berger ’80, Ronnie Cole ’83, ’11 and Tony Lucas ’97. The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding service or accomplishment in their personal or professional lives.

Dr. Lesia Banks has worked in the federal sector for 23 years. Currently, she works with the Department of Homeland Security where she serves as Chief of Risk Management. She is responsible for developing and implementing a process to build accountability at all levels, strengthen internal controls, identify and correct deficiencies, facilitate positive change and foster professional integrity. She has also served in leadership roles at the Security and Exchange Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of State. She is a sought-after speaker, facilitator and instructor. Dr. Banks serves as a visiting scholar to Capella University and is an adjunct professor at Central Michigan University.

Phil Berger attended Averett as non-traditional student, working to support his family at the same time. At 28, he became the first in his family to earn a college degree. He then attended Wake Forest Law School in Winston-Salem, N.C. In 1984, he joined a practice that is now the Berger Law Firm – a partnership with his two sons. He was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 2000 and became President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate in 2011. He serves as co-chair of the Legislative Services Commission and the Committee on Governmental Operations.

Ronnie Cole is an Assistant Professor of High Performance Technology at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC). He also teaches dual-enrollment for Halifax County High School, and is involved in promoting STEM activities at SVCC. Cole is dedicated to helping students acquire skills and knowledge that will enable them to seek high-tech jobs and be productive citizens. Last fall, he and his students launched a project using 3D printer technology to create a “robohand” for his 12-year-old daughter. He was recognized in print and TV media for the research, innovation and creative problem solving used to bring this idea to fruition.

A graduate of the Graduate and Professional Studies Program, Tony Lucas is the owner of Shoosmith Bros. Inc. He learned about business while earning his Bachelor of Business Administration degree and used those skills to achieve the American dream. He began his entrepreneurial career when he purchased a mature business in Chesterfield County. Lucas expanded the business and entered new industries including landfill operation, state-wide refuse collection and construction and land development. He is working with one of his former Averett professors to write a book about the American dream and the opportunities America offers new citizens, women and minorities.

The university presented the Recent Alumnus Award to Dr. Courtney Kesler Rocovich ’05. The Recent Alumnus Award recognizes alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years for their professional or humanitarian efforts. After graduating from Averett, Rocovich attended The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) – becoming the first Averett graduate to do so. Her determination, gusto and knowledge paved the way for other Averett students to follow in her footsteps. VCOM took notice of the quality of students Averett graduates and formed a partnership with the university that allows our graduates to continue their education and follow their dreams. Rocovich has worked in the medical field in Kenya, written for medical journals and trained with the Johns Hopkins Trauma Unit. During her residency, she worked in the emergency room in Detroit, Mich. She now works at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke as an emergency medicine physician.

Chris West ’12 received the Frank Campbell Service Award. This award recognizes alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years for their service to Averett. West is a government/legislative correspondent for Congressman Robert Hurt, who represents the fifth district in Virginia. West has always been determined to work in politics. While at Averett he was president of the Student Government Association and actively volunteered in local political groups. He has worked for Congressman Hurt since he graduated, first in Hurt’s Danville office as a regional representative, and now in Washington as his legislative correspondent. He applied for, and was accepted into, the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.
Our Graduates are Making a Mark!
October 6, 2014

Many recent Averett graduates have found jobs or are pursuing advanced degrees. Other graduates have been recognized for their achievements or have changed positions. Read on for more.

• Jennifer Whitlow ’14 is now a Staffing Administrator (Human Resources) for Fidelity Investments in Raleigh, N.C. Whitlow majored in Sociology/Criminal Justice with a minor in Communication Studies.

• Julianna Prus ’14 is working as a Dermatology Assistant in the Tidewater Region. Prus was a Biology: Biomedical Science Major.

• Ariel Barrett ’14 is an elementary art teacher at Petree Elementary in Winston-Salem, N.C. Barrett was an Art Education major.

• Johanne Sandvoll Ingebrigtsen ’14 is working on her Master’s degree in Psychology in Budapest, Hungary. Ingebrigtsen double majored in Sociology and Psychology. She hopes to one day work with patients in a mental health facility.

• Adam Goebel ’00 has been named Acting Director of the Danville Science Center. Goebel has worked as the Education Director for the last 13 years. He has used his Biology/Ecology degree from Averett to develop and implement live science programming for children of all ages.
• Communication Studies/Journalism graduate Dominique Fitzgerald ’14 has been named the Marketing Coordinator for Danville’s Goodwill Industries.

• Shane Brogden ’14, a Communication Studies/Journalism graduate, is now the Program and Media Coordinator for God’s Pit Crew. One of Shane’s first assignments will be to travel with the group to Mississippi to create a video documenting their relief efforts.

• Brooke Murphy ’11 has landed a full-time job with Dan Chem Technologies as an Environmental, Health and Safety Assistant.

• Joe Gillie ’76 is the recipient of the 2014 Mary Beth Treen Award. Gillie has worked in the arts in Palm Beach County for 38 years and currently serves as the President/CEO of the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. An accomplished actor, teacher, technician and administrator, he has given back to the community through years of service and volunteerism. The award was presented on October 1 at Georgia State University’s Rialto Center for the Arts. The Mary Beth Treen Award is presented by South Arts to an individual representing the best qualities within the presenting and touring community. It is named for Mary Beth Treen, now retired from Mary Beth Treen Artists Management, for her contributions to the performing arts field.