Averett University Receives more than $500,000 Gift from Caesars Virginia to Create Hospitality and Tourism Academic Program

Posted on November 9th, 2022 by Matt Bell

Averett recruits seasoned industry veteran to lead program as inaugural director

Averett University today announced a major gift from Caesars Virginia, a joint venture between Caesars Entertainment (“Caesars”) and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (“EBCI”), signaling a significant investment in the hospitality and tourism future of the region.

Caesars Virginia is providing Averett with $504,000 to develop a hospitality and tourism academic program – one of only a handful of four-year programs of its kind in Virginia.

“At Averett University, we strive to be a strong partner to our city, region and beyond, and we know there is a significant and growing need for a prepared workforce with advanced education in this industry,” said Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks. “We are proud that major players like Caesars and EBCI recognize the significant role we have as Danville’s Hometown University and are most grateful for the tremendous generosity and spirit of partnership they have exhibited. We know this is not just an accomplishment for Averett but for the future of our region.”

“At Caesars Entertainment, we are committed to investing in the communities where we work and live through education and philanthropic giving,” said Barron Fuller, Regional President for Caesars Entertainment. “By partnering with Averett, we aim to provide resources for the next generation of hospitality professionals in the area. We look forward to building this program alongside the University for years to come.”

“The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are proud of the partnerships built in Danville and the surrounding communities in Virginia. This donation supporting the creation of Averett University’s hospitality program stems from the EBCI value system that prioritizes education and lifelong learning,” said Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  “We look forward to continuing to build opportunities for the people of Danville with this program and through our partnership with Caesars Entertainment.”

Additionally, Averett also announced the selection of hospitality industry veteran Thomas Perugini as the program’s inaugural director. Perugini joins Averett with 25 years of hospitality industry experience as a leader in food and beverage as well as hotel and resort operations throughout Florida, complemented by nearly a decade of teaching hospitality management. He started with the University last month.

“I am very excited about joining the Averett team to help develop and grow this dynamic new program. This community is so welcoming and warm, and the desire for enhanced service excellence in this industry is inspiring and shows great potential,” said Perugini. “Like most other industries, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality and tourism organizations are hungry for quality employees who possess both the hands-on training as well as the soft skills needed in customer service and in management. This program will help feed that regional workforce pipeline through interns still in the program and ultimately with Averett graduates.”

Averett’s new concentration and minor in Hospitality Management and Tourism will be housed under the University’s existing undergraduate Business Management program and will launch for on-campus and Averett Online students beginning in the fall 2023 semester. The program will include courses like Introduction to the Hospitality and Tourism Industry; Lodging Operations; and Food and Beverage Management, with electives such as Casino, Resort and Club Management; and Facility Design. Students will end the program with a capstone internship opportunity with local hospitality partners.

The University hosted a celebratory announcement honoring Caesars and introducing Perugini at 4 p.m. today at Cottontail Weddings & Events in Danville’s restored River District. Guests included leadership from Caesars Virginia, city leaders and regional hospitality and tourism industry professionals, as well as University Trustees, employees, students, alumni and friends.

Caesars and Averett locked arms very early in the discussions around bringing the Caesars Virginia resort to Danville. Caesars Virginia – a $650 million resort being developed in Danville’s historic Schoolfield neighborhood at the former site of Dan River Mill’s finishing plant – selected Averett as its educational partner to develop the academic program and create internship and employment pipelines for Averett students. Franks served as a co-chair of the 2020 “Caesars for Danville,” campaign referendum committee, and Averett hosted the signing event in which the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the City of Danville and Caesars signed an agreement outlining the future plans of the casino project.

For photos, click here.