Averett Hosts Inaugural Black Alumni Reunion

Posted on April 11th, 2024 by Bill Dyer

Averett University welcomed an enthusiastic and involved group of Black alumni, spanning from two of the institution’s very first Black graduates to several of its most recent alumni. The opening ceremony was held Saturday, April 6 in Pritchett Auditorium in the Violet T. Frith Fine Arts Center.

Highlighted by a keynote address from The Honorable Rossie Alston Jr., ’79, the reunion gave a glimpse of how Averett has transformed over the last 50-plus years to the innovative and inclusive University that we know today.

“I think this inaugural Averett University Black Alumni Reunion was a huge success and has built a strong foundation for future Black alumni reunions,” said Joel Nester, director of Alumni and Constituent Relations at Averett. “This reunion will become an annual tradition at Averett…I can see this event becoming almost like a second Homecoming.”

Alston, a U.S. District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and Averett alumnus, shared his story of how Averett changed his life and prepared him for the future. He talked about how Averett was the “right fit” for him and how, more importantly, he met his wife, who is also an Averett graduate.

“It is almost unfathomable to me as to what, through God’s grace, I’ve been able to accomplish,” Alston said. “My mother had a passion about things and the way that she taught my brother and me was that you judge people for what they are as opposed to what they think they are.”

He continued his address to the assembled group with another important point – one that is universal in nature and scope.

“Several years ago, I was a naïve, precocious child trying to find myself. Because people were apparently watching me, I tried a little harder,” Alston said. “The challenge remains for each of us. It is the sweet spot that I look back on humbly and reflectively. It causes me to want to embrace challenges. And we all must be willing to embrace challenge, no matter how significant that challenge must be.”

Nester opened the program and welcomed the alumni back to their alma mater. He remarked about the importance of this year’s event and the way it will pave the way for future events and the formation of the Black Alumni Chapter of the Averett University Alumni Association.

“This reunion is a testament to the resilience, strengths and achievements of our Black alumni community,” Nester said. “Each one of you has contributed in your unique way to the fabric of Averett’s history.”

Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks praised alumni for their work and their lives since graduating from the University. She recognized the variety and depth of the careers this group entailed and the importance of their willingness to begin this new chapter of Averett alumni.

“Today marks a significant moment in our history,” she said. “I hope you can hear my admiration, my gratitude to each of you, because you have excelled in your respected fields.”

Dr. Annie Wimbish ’81, chair of the Board of Trustees of Averett University – and the first woman of color to serve in the role – spoke to alumni before introducing event organizer Darryl Lanier ’02, Alumni Association Board Member Herman Mason ’08, and upcoming May 2024 graduate Maleek Henderson, who had the honor of introducing Alston.

During the formal program, two women in attendance were recognized as being among the very first African American women to graduate from then Averett College. Millie Dunston graduated in the Class of 1971 and Margaret Cannon graduated a year later. Both women still reside in the area and were warmly greeted and welcomed during the day’s festivities.

Following the formal program, the group reassembled at The Cougar Den, Averett’s dining hall, for a lunch and fellowship time, and adjourned to the Student Center Lawn for a few games of cornhole, despite chilly and windy weather. Next on the agenda was a job fair and mentoring time that included some current Averett students, along with the alumni group. One of the most enjoyed parts of the day was an impromptu campus tour, highlighting the significant improvements to campus, while evoking cherished memories of their days at Averett.

The successful day of events on campus was followed by a social event held Saturday night at Cottontail Weddings and Events in Danville’s River District, where nearly 75 Averett alumni gathered to reminisce and celebrate.

One of the primary goals of this new Chapter is to generate financial support for student scholarships, and a steady stream of donations have already been made. For opportunities to give to this scholarship, please visit here.