Averett University Presents First-Ever President’s Service Award to Local Civil Rights and Faith Leader at Founders’ Day

Posted on January 17th, 2019 by Danielle Staub

At its annual Founders’ Day event, Averett University bestowed a first-ever prestigious award to a prominent local alumnus. The new President’s Service Award was presented to Reverend Lawrence G. Campbell, Sr. ’73 by Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks.

The President’s Service Award is a new recognition for those who have shown exemplary service to Averett University or the surrounding region. Recipients of this award may include individuals or entities internal or external to the University, and are chosen at the discretion of the President.

“Bishop Campbell’s decades-long service to our region exemplifies Averett’s mission, and I am grateful for all he has done for Danville and beyond,” said Franks. “From his military service to his passion for civil rights and integration, his life’s work and many legacies are an inspiration to me, to his Alma Mater and to this entire region.”

Campbell has served as the pastor of Bible Way Cathedral in Danville since he and his wife founded the church in 1953. He also served as the served as the Chief Apostle and Presiding Bishop of the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, leading over 300 churches in the United States, England, Africa and the Caribbean from 1998-2006. The U.S. Navy veteran was a civil rights organizer and leader in Danville during the 60s, and has been a local voice and civil rights champion ever since.

“I am so very grateful to Averett University and Dr. Tiffany Franks for bestowing upon me the President’s Award for service to the community,” said Campbell. “I love our community and I shall continue to do whatever I can to bring about social justice and equality for all people.”

Founders’ Day is a tradition at Averett – dating back to the University’s creation in 1859 – recognizing the significance of the founding contributors of the University. Hundreds gathered in the University’s Pritchett Auditorium in the Violet T. Frith Fine Arts Center to hear from accomplished alumni speakers.

Afira Arrastia-DeVries ’98 graduated from Averett with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is currently the president & CEO of the United Way of the Roanoke Valley.

Arrastia-DeVries told the crowd she was going to speak from the heart and tell her real story. She spoke of hardships during her childhood and her decision to go to college away from home.

“I decided the boarders to my neighborhood were not going to be the boarders to my capacity,” she said. “I was tired of pretending I was stupid and tired of acting like I didn’t understand so I wouldn’t get picked on. I was sick of it.”

Arrastia-DeVries explained that when she got to Averett, she found out what she was meant to be and without Averett, that may not have happened.

“Averett gave me a belief in my own intelligence and potential. The kinds of professors I had at Averett taught me what integrity was and what it meant to be responsible for my academics,” Arrastia-DeVries said.

Torrey Dixon ’00 graduated from Averett with a Bachelor of Arts in pre-law, English and history. He is currently a North Carolina Assistant Attorney General.

Dixon grew up right down the road from Averett and explained how much his time at Averett “not only bettered me but it convinced me I could change the world for the better.”

“Take the time to appreciate Averett’s small and diverse community,” said Dixon. “I created friendships through which I was able to discover the world, less than three miles from my front door.”

Following Dixon, senior Tyler Henley ’19 told his peers, faculty, staff and community members in the room that Averett has instilled a confidence in him that he never had before.

Henley said it’s the experiences he has been through here, such as flying Dr. Franks in one of Averett’s airplanes from Richmond, Va., to Greensboro, N.C. for a meeting, that makes him ready to take on what’s next and extremely very proud of this University for believing in its students.