December 6 2021

With great excitement and joy, Credo announces Dr. Tiffany McKillip Franks, President of Averett University, as the recipient of the 2022 Courageous Leadership Award.

Awarded each year to a higher education president who embodies courage in leadership, Dr. Tiffany Franks’ collaborative spirit, unapologetic bravery, and living commitment to students, learning, and her community, all arose as differentiators, making her the clear choice for this year’s selection.

The "Why" Behind A Courageous Leader

Tiffany McKillip Franks became the first woman president of Averett University in July of 2008. During her tenure as president, Averett has so far raised nearly $40 million, increased traditional enrollment of the university and expanded its academic and athletic offerings., The campus footprint and place of Averett has also been greatly enhanced, including opening the Riverview Campus in Danville's River District, construction of a new stadium, expanded fine arts facilities, and acquisition of the fixed base operation of the Danville Regional Airport. Additionally, with Tiffany at the helm, Averett established the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness, signaling the major transformation of Averett as "the hometown university" and growing the impact of the university in the community.

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Tiffany's list of additional accomplishments is long, and each individual accomplishment has been fueled by her personal why—her passion and heart for students and their success. Tiffany's why runs deep and has been at the center of not only her own success, but also the success of Averett University, its students, and community.

With roots in student affairs, Tiffany’s passion for students and their success—and her ability to communicate and partner with students, colleagues, and leadership—were recognized early, and she was tapped for leadership at the beginning of her career. Tiffany’s more than 30 years of higher education leadership experience have been successfully strengthened by her way of building a sense of shared purpose, generous listening, and always making everyone in the room feel valued and that their opinions matter. Tiffany’s humility and authenticity stretch outward; she is her full self and invites others to bring their full selves into conversations and decision-making, as well.

“Tiffany believes and says, ‘we need all voices to make the best decision.’ This ethos is real and evidenced in every conversation with her and about her,” said Credo Vice Chairman Dr. Joretta Nelson.

Joretta goes on to describe Tiffany this way:

“Tiffany is both courageous and collaborative. She has kept incredible humility throughout her leadership, always seeking knowledge, counsel, and feedback. She approaches every opportunity with the same enthusiasm to learn that I saw a decade ago when we first met, and her campus and community not only know her, but are each in some way impacted by her incredible work of loving people, serving students, and bettering the Averett community.”


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Resounding Echoes of Meaningful Impact

All presidents have full calendars and many often conflicting priorities and commitments, but Tiffany sets the bar in this regard. And she attends to the work of the president with the same zeal throughout each day of the week. Tiffany attends as many campus events as possible—from athletic events to celebrations to introducing and hosting virtual holiday events to foster joy and community, even when being together in person is not possible. 

When in-person is possible, it is a known practice for Tiffany and her husband, Joe, to invite each Averett student to dinner at the President's House. With a small group of students, in her own home, Tiffany tries to get to know each student as a person. That sense of fostering connections extends out to faculty, staff, and community members.  

Tiffany's work has naturally expanded out into the Danville, Virginia community. She has made believers out of her town by building relationships with individuals and partnerships with organizations and businesses to mutually benefit Averett’s students, their futures, and the futures of the community. In partnership with community leaders, she helped to establish Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania County and served as the inaugural Chair of its Board of Directors. Tiffany also serves on the board of LifeSpire of Virginia, was selected as the first female to serve on the Future of the Piedmont Board of Directors, and is honored to serve on the NCAA Division III President’s Council.

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Her own campus describes her this way:

“Dr. Franks is inspired daily by the passion of the entire Averett Family; she feeds it and feeds off it. She always tells prospective students to visit and see for themselves the diversity, the caring attitude, the family feeling that Averett exudes.”

Tiffany’s success story is her own, and yet she also shares that success with everyone around her, including her husband, Joe, who is just as much a part of the campus community as his wife. Tiffany's adaptability, courage, and collaboration have empowered so many. We recognize and thank Dr. Tiffany McKillip Franks for her leadership and for all she does each day for students and their success.

Courageous Leadership Award CrIteria

The Courageous Leadership Award is presented annually, and the award recipients demonstrate one or many of the following achievements as a part of their institutional leadership*:

  • Minimum five years in the presidential seat at their institution.
  • Visible champion and advocate for students and their success.
  • Proven champion of inclusive leadership.
  • Articulation and successful execution of a compelling and clear vision for their institution.
  • Proven track record of fostering collaborative relationships both inside and outside of their institution.
  • Significant institutional growth across one or more key indicators such as enrollment, fundraising, and retention.
  • Proven innovation in operations, academics, net revenue, strategic planning, student success, or other critical areas.
  • Strategic, game-changing planning for and investments in campus spaces and places.
To learn more about Tiffany's professional accomplishments, please visit her Averett University biography and additional biography.

*To be considered for the Credo Courageous Leadership Award, a leader need not be a current or past Credo client.

All photographs are courtesy of Averett University.

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