Averett University Graduates 297 Students in December Commencement

Posted on December 10th, 2016 by Danielle Staub

31553354085_265c5c2883_zThe murmurs of excited whispers could be heard across the E. Stuart James Grant Athletic & Convocation Center at Averett University’s Commencement on December 10. With friends, family members, University faculty and staff and special guests in attendance, the nearly 300 graduates receiving degrees that day had plenty of reasons to feel proud about their significant accomplishments.

The 297 students in the graduating class ranged in age from 21 to 74, and represented six foreign countries: Sweden, Greece, Dominican Republic, Finland, Morocco and Belize. Two-hundred, thirty-four of the students completed their degrees through the University’s Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) program, and 63 were traditional graduates.

Graduates marched in to the AU Cougar band, listened to the University’s Rev. Skyler Daniel give the invocation and then their fellow graduate, Ja`Corey Jones, sing the national anthem. Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks welcomed everyone in attendance by asking them to say hello to the people sitting beside, in front and in back of them and then reminded the room that, “The Averett family is big and diverse and supportive. Keep in mind you have the Averett family to lean on.”

Graduates were welcomed into the alumni network next by Rev. Dr. Daniel Carlton ’90. Dr. Timothy E. Fulop announced the four award recipients, and Joanne Soliday, a higher education consultant and strategic planning specialist, delivered the Commencement address.

Soliday made note of the fact that this is a very diverse group of graduates but there are two things everyone has in common. An hour from then, they will all be graduates of Averett University, and secondly, “You did it!”30712063974_aecb47742f_z

“You were tempted to stop somewhere along the way. Moments you just thought you weren’t going to get here and you did,” Soliday said. “You have learned to respect those who are different than you are, and our greatest hope is that you will carry that wherever you will go. That ability is going to be one of the greatest skills you can take with you.”

Dr. Fulop presented the graduates and recognized those receiving awards, including:

Traditional undergraduate awards:

  • The Mary C. Fugate Award for Academic Excellence: Virginia June Wilson
  • Grace V. Crenshaw Award for Winter 2016: Stuart Tyler-Lee Crouch

Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) awards:

  • Malcolm Knowles Award for Winter 2016: Christy M. Clark
  • Frank Campbell Award for Winter 2016: Joshua Mason Louden

The mother of a graduate from Finland, Anna Laukkanen, says her daughter felt encouraged here at Averett. And with the support of those at Averett, she was able to get her degree in America.

“Because of the size of the University, they have enough time for the students, so they get the support they need. She has met a lot of good friends, not only Finnish. She spent her Thanksgiving holiday with one of her American friends. She really loves it here,” mother of graduate, Aura-Maria Laukkanen, Anna Laukkanen said.

Soliday told the graduates the biggest predictor on whether or not they would make it to where they were today was not a test score or how smart they may be. She said it is hope.

“Not what kind of resources you had, what family you grew up in or what country you came from, you all have the same ability to hope,” Soliday said. “What will you hope? How will you keep the next dream alive?”