Hindsight 2020: Looking Back at Averett’s Top 20 Stories of 2020

Posted on December 31st, 2020 by Matt Bell

Unprecedented. Historic. Unique. The list of adjectives to describe the year 2020 is seemingly never-ending.

Though a year of some of the most strange, inspiring and tumultuous moments across the globe, At Averett, we have not let the challenges of 2020 hold us back. We’ve continued to push through many new initiatives and remained flexible and creative while reimagining the many ways with which we engage our students and the world around us.

As the year comes to a close, we are looking back at the top 20 events in 2020 at the University, in no particular order.

Commencement Held for all 2020 Graduates

In an emotion-packed graduation weekend of historic firsts, Averett University recognized the Class of 2020 in two unique celebrations December 11 and 12, including a full virutal commencement ceremony, as well as an opportunity for graduates to walk the commencement stage in-person and receive their diplomas with a few guests cheering them on.

Averett Adds Women’s Golf Program

In December, Averett announced that women’s golf is being added to its athletics program. The program will be directed by men’s golf coach Ben Potter, and the team will begin play in fall 2021.


North Campus Renamed

On October 6, Averett announced that its North Campus – home to Averett Athletics – was renamed to the Averett University E. Stuart James Grant North Campus. Over the course of 27 years, the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust has provided the University with a combined $18.5 million. The late E. Stuart James Grant, former owner and publisher of the Danville Register & Bee, willed her estate to eight organizations across the region upon her death in 1990.

Averett Hired Distinguished Entrepreneur, Created New Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

John Vigouroux ’82 joined the University in August as chief entrepreneurship and innovation officer, and began leading a new initiative – the Averett Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Center is working to serve as an academic/learning lab and entrepreneurial gateway for students, connecting them with the region’s economic environment while accelerating and supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southern Virginia.

U.S. News Again Ranked Averett Among Top 20 

Averett University continues to rank within the top 20 of the best regional liberal arts colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Ranked as No. 18, Averett continues to be the highest ranking of only three Virginia schools from the complete list of 69 schools on the “2021 Best Regional Colleges in the South” list. Averett was also ranked No. 7 out of 15 best regional colleges in the south for veterans this year, as well as No. 16 among regional colleges in the south in the list of Top Performers on Social Mobility.

Averett’s Stevens Named Division III Nike Administrator of the Year

The Women Leaders in College Sports announced recently that Averett University Vice President and Director of Athletics and Campus Operations Meg Stevens was selected as the Nike Division III Administrator of the Year. A social media campaign launched on September 8 honoring Stevens as a part of Nike’s 2020 Celebration of Women.

Alumnus Named Virginia Teacher of the Year

Averett University alumnus Anthony Swann ’07 was named the Mary V. Bicouvaris 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year during a virtual recognition ceremony in October. An elementary school teacher in Rocky Mount, Va., Swann was voted teacher of the year by his peers in March, then went on to be selected as the district teacher of the year before moving on to the regional awards.

Homecoming@Home Held During Fall Semester

While Homecoming looked different this year, Averett continued many traditions virtually, including the Distinguished Alumni and Service Awards and Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony. The recognition ceremony aired on October 17, honoring six distinguished alumni and seven inductees to the Athletics Hall of Fame. Also that weekend, Averett’s Homecoming@Home featured a Roaring 20s theme and included athletic events, a career fair and a service of remembrance.

Averett Received Distinguished Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement

Averett University received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for the first time in January. This elective designation indicates institutional commitment to community engagement, and has been the leading assessment and recognition of community engagement for American colleges and universities for more than a decade. The Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC) at Averett guided the charge in obtaining this distinguished recognition.

Averett Senior Won 2020 Governor’s Volunteerism Award

Averett Senior Aniyah Huberta won the 2020 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Young Adult Volunteer. The award was presented to her after volunteering most of her time with AmerCorps in the City of Danville. Since the time she was a high school student, Hubert has volunteered in multiple places.


Averett Kicked Off Fall Semester Virtually, Held Drive Thru Social

Averett University got creative for its 2020-21 opening of the academic year kick-off events Monday, Aug. 10. The annual faculty and staff kick-off meeting was held via Zoom instead of in person. Later in the afternoon, Averett President Dr. Tiffany Franks and her husband, Joe, hosted a drive-thru social in which more than 100 neighbors, students and employees and their families paraded to celebrate campus reopening.


Averett President Issues Message of Solidarity

In response to heightened accounts of racism, violence and hatred in 2020, Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks issued a message of solidarity, encouraging each of us to do the work to be better and do the necessary work to learn, grow and heal.


Averett Opened Unique Fall Semester with “One Averett, Together Again” Plan

Averett University conducted a phased, on-campus reopening for its fall 2020 semester with its “One Averett, Together Again” reopening plan – with a multitude of health and safety protocols in place. The University underwent extensive scenario planning for all facets of academic, campus life and operations to prepare for bringing students, employees and visitors back to campus as soon as public health guidance and government mandates allowed.

Averett Hired New CFO/COO

Don Aungst joined the Averett family in the spring as vice president & chief financial & operating officer, and also leads the Campus COVID-19 Coordination Team. His over 30 years of experience includes serving as a vice president, chief financial and planning officer, executive VP and special advisor to the president at Susquehanna University, Capital University, Upper Iowa University and Mercy College.


Teacher Education Program Recognized for Early Reading Preparation

In January, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) ranked Averett ’s undergraduate elementary education degree program among the best in Virginia for early reading preparation – one of only six programs in the Commonwealth to receive the top grade. It found some programs, like Averett’s, making significant progress in preparing teachers to use the most effective methods when teaching kids how to read.

Large Freshman Class Welcomed for Unique Fall 2020 Semester

As students made a staggered return to campus, Fall 2020 classes began at Averett on Wednesday, Aug. 19, with a large incoming class. A total of 350 new students joined the University this academic year, which included 282 freshmen, 57 transfer students and 11 readmitted students.

Despite Pandemic, Students Continued Volunteering

The spirit of service among Averett students persisted through 2020 as students from the Averett Bonner Leader Program took advantage of numerous volunteer opportunities. Despite the pandemic, students gave dozens of hours at partnering non-profits, like several Averett Bonner Leaders did at Danville’s God’s Storehouse.

Pandemic Ushers in New Job Preparation Methods for Averett Students

When virtual meetings took the world by storm following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett seized the opportunity to learn how it could better prepare students for job interviews and resume building in a virtual setting. This fall, career preparation options for Averett students continued virtually.

Student-Athletes and Coaches Make Memorable Moments After Seasons Cut Short

In addition to the COVID-19 disruptions of campus life, Averett’s athletics program was also affected, rendering its teams unable to compete. Averett student-athletes and coaches made the most of the situation after having their seasons cut short in spring 2020 after the pandemic halted college sports.

Inaugural Cohort of Master’s Students in School of Nursing Kick Off New Program

The Averett University School of Nursing welcomed 11 new graduate students in January, marking its inaugural class for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. The MSN cohort is working toward certification as Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP), allowing them to work with greater autonomy and to serve as primary health care providers for patients, and ultimately helping to fulfill a significant workforce need.