For the second year now, Averett University extended its homecoming celebrations to an entire week of events for the students. Prior to 2017, the homecoming festivities were celebrated on weekends. Averett kicked things off this year with a block party on its main campus on Monday, Sept. 22.
“We’re trying to build a tradition,” Averett Assistant Dean of Students Jill Adams said. “Last year was our first year doing that.”
At the block party, the dining hall closed down and dinner was served outside so students could eat while enjoying the festivities. This was also the first appearance of the 2018 homecoming court. In addition, the men’s and women’s soccer teams, cross country team, football team and cheerleading squad were all introduced.
The night featured dancing and other contests where the students in attendance could have a chance to win prizes.
“My freshman year, we didn’t have anything like that,” Averett junior and nursing major Andruw Cain said. “It’s definitely a fun time going to the events and seeing people show their school pride.”
Cain was a member of the homecoming court for 2018, and he said he was selected as homecoming prince for the sophomore class when he on the court last year.
“The best thing about homecoming is all of the alumni that come back for the football game,” Cain said. “It’s just cool to see the family atmosphere that Averett offers and for everyone to come together and cheer on the team.” Averett’s football team gave the Cougar fans a happy homecoming game on Saturday night as well, blowing out Greensboro College 54-0. The second homecoming event which was held on Tuesday, September 23 was a banner contest. Averett’s Sister for Sister organization was named the winner of the contest later in the week. Different student organizations had the chance to decorate a banner to be displayed at the game.
“I think they really stepped it up this year with a student engagement team,” senior and business marketing and management major Beth Powell said. “I think they’ve really done a good job. It’s a lot more fun this year and I’m excited for the events.”
Powell is on the cheerleading squad, and also was named to the 2018 homecoming court.
“The cheerleaders are really the people that are supposed to be hyping everyone up and getting everyone excited,” Powell said. “We’re showing some new stuff to show our school support throughout the entire week.”
Powell also said she loves Averett’s family atmosphere when the alumni come to visit. One of her old roommates who graduated last year was excited to come back and see her over the weekend.
“The community feeling that we have and the connection we have through Averett has just been incredible,” Powell said.
On Wednesday, Sept. 24, Averett was scheduled to host a movie night on the lawn outside of the student center. That event was moved inside because of the weather. On Thursday night at Pritchett Auditorium, the students were entertained by comedian Ronnie Jordan.
During his show, Jordan said that he has visited numerous college campuses. He also works with Kevin Hart.
“Every year homecoming gets bigger and more exciting,” Averett President Tiffany Franks said. “I love the way our current students have decided to have spirit days every single day of the week and they have just knocked it out of the ballpark. I’m so proud of our students.”
Franks is currently in her 11th year at Averett. On Friday, she visited the career expo in Carrington Gym, which gave students a chance to network with professionals from different businesses in the area.
“We found that freshman often think they know what they want to do but they really don’t,” Averett career development director Angie McAdams said. “We try to get a wide variety of folks in here for them to talk to so they can learn some new things.”
Over 30 professionals participated in the expo, and each sat a different table. Every six minutes, the students would move to a different table and talk to a new person so they could learn from as many people as possible.
Two of the professionals participating in the event were Brandon Veasey and Jason Baskerville who were representatives of Life Push LLC. Life Push is a dynamic organization dedicated to the improvement of communities, leaders, and generations across multiple demographics.
“We want to ask students the questions that they aren’t being asked on a daily basis,” Veasy said. “Who are you? What are you good at? How do you maximize that? A lot of students who come here are coming here to play their sport and that’s fantastic. You should be good at your sport but you also want to focus on who you are away from the game.”
Veasy and Baskerville said that the most important message they want to relay to students is to “pursue their purpose.” They believe that should be every student’s goal when coming to college.
“Working with this company, I’ve come to find that to be the only way to find true happiness,” Baskerville said. “It’s what life is about.”
Following the career expo on Friday afternoon, Averett’s next event was the Cougar Festival which was also held across from the student center on main campus. The event featured games, prizes, food, inflatables and the students had a chance to try their hands on a mechanical bull ride.
“It’s just great to see the students having fun,” Franks said. “It’s a great time and in many ways, it’s the beginning of a great weekend. Our students just love it. It’s an opportunity to have a good time and let off some steam from stress and classes. I think our student life staff do a great job organizing events for students and our students are leading so many of these.”
On Friday night, Averett held the hometown homecoming party at the Stratford Conference Center with a steak dinner, followed by a dance party. The event was was open not only for Averett, but for anyone in the community who wanted to come out and have a good time.
Things continued on Saturday morning when Averett inducted five new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame at Pritchett Auditorium. The 2018 class featured four former student-athletes in softball's Lindi Beamon (2002); men's basketball's Jonathan Rumley (2009); women's soccer's Sandra Johansson (2014) and Pernilla Milton (2013) andas well as former men's basketball coach Jimmy Allen.
Beamon in addition to being a star at Averett, also played softball at Tunstall High School.
“This is an honor,” Beamon said. “I came to Averett and it ended up being probably one of the best decisions I ever made. It was like a family.”
Beamon, along with Allen, Johansson, Milton and Rumley joined an elite membership of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and contributors who have been inducted into the Averett Athletics Hall of Fame since 2000. So far 39 inductees have been selected.
“For our current students, today is not only a day where they can see our Hall of Fame,” Averett athletic director Meg Stevens said. “They can see the history that has come before them. I want them to see what the best of the best have done before them.”
Averett recognized recipients for the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Recent Alumnus Award, the Mary Jo Davis Lifetime Service Award and the Frank Campbell Service Award.
Distinguished Alumni recipients included Dr. Aryn Cotter (1990), Tamara Kotronis (1995) and Tania White (1992). The Recent Alumni Award winner was Danielle Fitz-Hugh (2009), the Mary Jo Davis Lifetime Service Award winner was Mary Franks (1966) and the Frank Campbell Service Award winner was Faith Stamps (1994 B.S., 2003 M.Ed.)
“This event is a celebration,” President Franks said. “It’s a celebration of Averett’s mission-in-action by alumni who have achieved and given in extraordinary ways.”
After the ceremony, Averett opened up Main Hall for visitors to go and see the renovations which were completed earlier this year.
Main Hall represents the beginning of Averett’s campus, and is the first of several residential spaces to undergo renovations over the course of the next decade. The renovations to the third and fourth floors of Main Hall included increasing the bed count from 24 to 76 beds. In addition, the penthouse level was renovated into a shared lounge space, including a community kitchen and group study spaces.
The rest of the day on Saturday was a pregame for the football game when Averett students, faculty, staff alumni and other members of the community tailgated in the parking lot of Campbell Stadium at Averett’s North Campus. There were plenty of games available to keep the students entertained until kickoff.
After Averett’s blowout victory over Greensboro College, the students finished their celebrations with a DJ party and another night of dancing put on by Averett.
“We’ve just had a lot of great events this week,” Franks said. “It signals to this entire community that we are Danville’s hometown university. We’re the only four-year university in this entire region and I think every year we just get bigger and bigger. What I love is seeing the way the community takes part. They’re coming to our games and we had a packed house on the north campus. You don’t have to be a graduate of Averett to come and be a part of Danville’s hometown homecoming.”