Opening Convocation Marks the Beginning of 163rd Academic Year for Averett University

Posted on August 18th, 2021 by Matt Bell

Opening Convocation at Averett University returned indoors to kick off the new academic year.

Although masked and socially distanced, students, faculty, staff and alumni assembled in Pritchett Auditorium in the Violet T. Frith Fine Arts Center to hear a message of strength and endurance from Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks as she encouraged students to create new habits.

“As an anonymous author once said, ‘you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending,’” Franks said.

During her message, Franks encouraged students to create four news habits: to be curious, be prepared, always ask for feedback and never settle for mediocrity.

“Today is the first day of a new beginning, of a fresh start, of exploration, of discovery, of success – starting now,” Franks said. “We’re one community bound together by these principals. We’re also bound together to have each other’s backs, especially as we navigate COVID and the delta variant.”

Noting the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for all, Franks told the students in attendance that an additional day will be added to fall break if the vaccination rate among students reaches 80% by September 15.

Vice President for Student Engagement and Senior Student Experience Officer Dr. Venita Mitchell, in her first Averett convocation address, had students use their imagination as to what Mark Twain, a fellow Missourian, might think of campus today.

“I’m convinced if he were alive today, he would love the robes, the discussions and the late night shenanigans. I am sure he would have had a Twitter [account],” Mitchell said.

But she continued by saying he always strived for success, and encouraged the new student body to do the same.

Adrian Earle ’22, Student Government Association senior class vice president, told students that the Averett experience is what they make of it.

“When we say Averett is what you make it, it’s based on what you put into it. Head Football Coach Patrick Henry charged each player to come up with a word, and to stand by that word for the year,” Earle said.

As for Earle, his word for the year is “earn.”

“I don’t believe you just need to sit here and expect to get a degree from Averett,” Earle said. “You need to put into it and earn your keep… Know your why, and earn your why.”

Vice President for Philanthropy Melissa Wohlstein followed Earle, sharing that the University received over $4 million in private support last year.

“Today is one step in your journey… your time at Averett will be brief, however you will be an alumnus forever,” Wohlstein said.

Before closing, Wohlstein introduced the decade representatives in attendance.

Representing the 2020s was Adrianna Britton ’20, the 2010s was Morgan Epstein Clark ’15, the 2000s was Averett Alumni Association President Jackson Weller ’01, the 1990s was Mark Lewis ’94, the 1980s was Gary Pritchett ’81, the 1970s was Pattie Cairns ’74, the 1960s was Judy Foster ’63, the 1950s was Judy Hodnett ’59, and the 1940s was Evelyn Collins ’47.

Legacy students and alumni who are employed by the University were also recognized.

Director of Admissions Joel Nester ’00, ’12 said he understood the new students had their senior year of high school disrupted, and it was good to see everyone gathered together Tuesday.

This year, 308 students were welcomed to the Averett family, comprised of 240 first-time freshmen, 53 transfer students and 15 who were readmitted.

The average GPA of the incoming class is 3.2.

The top majors among the entering class are business with 52 students, physical education with 40, aviation with 36, nursing with 34 and biology with 32.

Entering students are representing 13 states and 18 countries including Canada, Congo, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, England and the Bahamas.

From the states, students are from Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Timothy Fulop said the incoming class is comprised of 96 presidential scholars.

Fulop also introduced the 2020-21 Faculty Member of the Year, Department Chair & Associate Professor of Health and Sport Science Dr. Melanie Lewis. For the next year, Dr. Lewis will have the pleasure of bearing the mace for each processional and recessional.

Dr. Gary Tucker ’95, professor of mathematics and division chair, sung the Alma Mater before the benediction was given by University Chaplain Rev. Skyler Daniel, who also gave the invocation.

Following convocation, members of the Averett community took advantage of a community picnic at the Student Center and attended the Second Annual Cougar Business Fest on the Student Lawn.

To watch Convocation in full, click here.