“The energy in this room is completely infectious,” Bobby Hackett, president of the Bonner Foundation, told more than 125 Averett University graduates, with their friends and family members looking on.
The graduates walking across the stage Saturday at Averett’s winter commencement ceremony in the E. Stuart James Grant Center ranged in age from 20 to 61.
Twenty of the graduates are veterans and three are international students from Sweden, Norway and Columbia. Two-thirds of the graduates completed their degrees with the Graduate and Professional Studies program, one through the IDEAL program and the rest traditional. Fifteen students completed their degree in August, but walked in today’s ceremony. The university conferred degrees at both the baccalaureate and master’s level. This December, a total of 165 students graduated from the GPS, IDEAL and traditional programs.
Following the processional, invocation and national anthem, Averett President Tiffany M. Franks welcomed the graduates.
“There are a handful of days that will stand out above the rest in your life. No matter how much longer you live, with days that are both joyful and sorrowful, today is one of those days. Today, is the end of your path to today’s degree,” said Franks. “It’s the beginning of your new life as a part of more than 25,000 Averett alumni. Averett alumni serve as mentors, connections and resources for each other. There are Averett alumni who live, work and prosper around the globe.”
Dr. Annie Wimbish, member of Averett’s Board of Trustees, then welcomed the soon to be graduates into that network of Averett alumni.
“Stay in touch with your classmates. Display your diploma with pride,” she said.
After an introduction from Dr. Franks, the honorary speaker Hackett then spoke to the graduates and encouraged them that it was okay, “if you haven’t figured it out yet, you will. Try one thing on for size, if you figure out it does not fit, move on to something else.”
Hackett told the crowd about his life’s path of service and how it all comes together.
“Our passions and talents met a real need in the community,” said Hackett about his work prior to Bonner at the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL). COOL’s mission was to “to educate, connect and mobilize college students and their campuses to strengthen communities through service and action.”
“While my path may have been crooked moving forward, I look back and realize it all came together and now looks much straighter,” he said explaining his path from COOL to Bonner and how one lead him to the other.
Since Hackett became the president of the Bonner Foundation, a role he assumed in July 2010, the Bonner Program has become the premier service-based scholarship program in the country, supporting 3,000 students annually on 65 colleges and universities. Averett University joined the Bonner Network in fall 2017 and currently has 21 National Bonner Leaders. These students devote 3-5 hours per week of community engagement in the Danville community, linking their academic studies and career interest.
Hackett then left the graduates with final words of advice for their future.
“Dedicate yourself to finding the opportunities where your skills and talents meet the world’s greatest needs,” Hackett said.