Averett University 2021 Winter Commencement Exercises

Posted on December 11th, 2021 by Cassie Jones

Averett University conferred the degrees of more than 135 graduates on Saturday, Dec. 11, from its Grant Center on the E. Stuart James Grant North Campus.

The graduating class of 2021, aged 21 to 63, includes seven veterans and six international students from Finland, Spain and Sweden. At least 20% are first-generation college graduates in their families.

Ninety-three graduates participated in today’s commencement ceremonies – 85 who graduated today, and eight who completed their degrees in August but walked today. The University conferred degrees at both the baccalaureate and master’s levels, with nearly a third of graduates from the traditional program and two-thirds graduating from Averett Online (formerly Graduate and Professional Studies).

Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks opened the exercises and introduced the commencement speaker, Clark Casteel.

“I have had the privilege of studying under celebrated and scholarly professors, alongside brilliant students from around the world. I have met many, many very smart people, and Clark Casteel is, without a doubt, one of the smartest people I have ever known,” Franks said of the Danville Regional Foundation’s president and CEO.

“His expertise is in economic development, and as all of you know, Danville was left seriously challenged after tobacco and textiles disappeared from our economy. Clark Casteel has stepped in and led the way in planning, in innovation, in entrepreneurship, in community development for this whole region. He does what we always want you to do — he sees the possible,” she said.

Casteel took the time to talk to graduates about the current “disrupted economy” – changes from accelerating factors like technology, globalization and demographics that have disrupted every single industry.

“This disruption creates significant opportunity. You are entering a job market with 11 million available jobs. That’s an unprecedented number,” Casteel said. “Companies are longing for bright, talented people who want to get out there and hustle, and this is a stroke of luck for each of you…Take advantage of your luck when it comes your way.”

He continued with insight from lessons he’s learned along the way, including five pieces of advice:

  1. You don’t have to tell everything you know (like you see on social media and reality TV).
  2. The things you don’t know right now mean less in the long run than what you’re willing and able to learn.
  3. Sometimes you’ve got to say, “Let’s give it a go!”
  4. It’s not always going to work out, and that’s okay.
  5. Be ready to take advantage of your luck.

“Know that your learning doesn’t stop here, it started here,” he finished. “Give it go. Go out and be useful. Create a life you don’t feel the need to escape from.”

Following the commencement address, Franks named Casteel an honorary member of the Averett graduating class of 2021 and presented him with a pin.

The ceremony included the traditional bagpipe processional, an invocation from University Chaplain Skyler Daniel and performance of the national anthem by Professor of Music and Department Chair Dr. Anne Lewis. Rev. Dr. Daniel Carlton ’90, chair of the Averett Board of Trustees, welcomed graduates and guests on behalf of the board, and Dr. Gary Tucker ’85, mathematics professor and division chair, sang the Alma Mater. Dr. Tucker and Jackie Finney ’80, theatre department co-chair and division chair, presented the graduates and recognized those receiving awards, including:

Traditional Undergraduate Awards (Highest GPA):
Mary C. Fugate Award: Erik Oskar Blick
Grace V. Crenshaw Award: Oliver Nicolas Ruff

Averett Online Awards (Highest GPA):
Malcolm Knowles Award: Michael Edward Baumgardner
Frank Campbell Award: Amy Taylor Davis

The Grant Center was socially distanced and all were masked. Graduates were allowed up to five guests each, and seating was grouped accordingly. The ceremony was originally planned to be held outdoors, but was moved indoors due to inclement weather.

View the full recorded ceremony here, and find more photos from the day here.