Opening Convocation Marks a ‘New and Historic Semester’ at Averett University

Posted on September 15th, 2020 by Matt Bell

Messages of unity and care for others filled today’s 162nd Opening Convocation at Averett University.

For the first time, the annual ceremony was held on Daly Field in the Frank R. Campbell Stadium on Averett’s North Campus. More than 150 students, faculty, staff and alumni attended in true pandemic fashion – socially distanced and wearing face coverings.

“How about the year 2020?” said Averett President Dr. Tiffany Franks. “In the past several months, the world has been turned upside down. The world is battling with two viruses – a public health virus and a social virus.”

At a time of increased awareness of bigotry, racism and systemic issues, Franks said Averett is a community strong in diversity for all.

“We are witnessing a movement for racial equity that echoes some of the highest hopes of the Civil Rights movement and of humanity,” she said. “I’m starting my thirteenth year at Averett, and one of the things I love about this University is our diversity in race, in our ethnicities with our vast number of international students, in sexual orientation, in our socioeconomic diversity and diversity of thought.”

Franks’ convocation address challenged students with four guiding principles: Live so you have no regrets; manage the messes with positivity and perseverance; be sponges, not brick walls; and appreciate the impact others are having on your lives.

She also appealed to attendees to continue following health and safety guidelines for the benefits of all.

“It’s not for me; it’s for we. It’s for our Averett family,” Franks said. “Everything is different, but we will continue to push through this bizarre time.”

Sentiments of togetherness continued throughout the ceremony.

“While we know the last six months have brought uncertainty and anxiety, we know it won’t be this way forever,” Averett University Dean of Students Lesley Villarose said.

Other elements of the traditional ceremony included the procession of the faculty, an opening prayer and closing benediction from University Chaplain Rev. Skyler Daniels, special recognitions from Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success Dr. Timothy Fulop, and the singing of the Alma Mater by mathematics professor and division chair Dr. Gary Tucker ’85.

Student leader Chase Nixon, from Gastonia, N.C. challenged students to be an activist for change. He is majoring in physical education: sports management and minoring in business. Nixon is also the Black Student Union president, junior class president of the Student Government Association, a football player and member of the Student Engagement Team.

Director of Admissions and International Counselor Joel Nester ’00, ’12 reported that the incoming fall 2020 class consists of 337 new students from 17 countries and 19 states, including 276 freshmen, 50 transfer students and 11 readmitted students. The average grade point average of the incoming class is 3.2.

Director of Alumni Relations Dan Hayes ’92 introduced representatives from classes spanning nine decades. At 92 years young, Evelyn Collins ’47 represented the 1940s decade during Opening Convocation. Collins was followed by Judy Hodnett ’59, Mary Franks ’66, Gary Pritchett ’81, Faith Stamps ’94, ’03, Dedric Rogers ’09, Darrius Bethel ’13, ’15 and George Roos ’20.

“You students are a part of a very important set of life-changing classes that I like to call our ‘Alumni in Residence program,’” said Hayes. “You will be an alumnus forever, but for a short time, Averett gets a chance to be a part of your daily life, to teach you about Averett’s traditions and values so that you will know what being an alumnus looks like.”

In closing, Franks reminded students that all are in this together, and that these circumstances would be made into something great.

“Welcome to a new and historic semester at Averett University.”

View photographs from Opening Convocation by clicking here. To watch Opening Convocation, click here