With southern charm and casual candor, former White House chief of staff and fiscal responsibility guru Erskine Bowles told graduating seniors to use their power to push Washington for change. The son of a Converse alumna, Bowles said Converse gave his mother her backbone, it gave her voice and it pushed her out of her comfort zone, and in turn, "she pushed me...So I, too, am a graduate of Converse College. I am Converse through-and-through."
Delivering the commencement address to the Class of 2013 in a packed Twichell Auditorium, Bowles went on to urge the newly minted grads to get mad. "Sisters, I want to make you angry – angry at me and my generation for kicking the can down the road and shirking our responsibility. The current fiscal deficit is a cancer that will destroy our future, and the future of all college graduates. Get mad; get angry; tell your friends; demand that your elected officials deal with this crisis."
Awarded with an honorary degree, the 67-year-old Erskine Boyce Bowles carries his mother's maiden name. Jessamine Boyce Bowles grew up in nearby Gastonia, NC and was a member of the Class of 1941. "She loved Converse," he said, and he accepted the invitation to speak at Converse, in part, because one of his closest friends, Jane Boatwright Schwab, a 1977 Converse alumna, asked him to and because, he said: "My mother would have kicked me all the way to Converse before she would have let me say no."
Offering shout-outs and accolades to the newest alumnae of the College, President Betsy Fleming encouraged the Red Devil class to "make the most of possibilities seen and unseen, known and unknown." She challenged them to "Make some noise. You have learned to speak up and speak out here. You started a revolution. You have become agents of change. So, go and fight for any cause dear to your heart that promises to enhance community."
Enumerating a number of the graduates' inspiring achievements and aspirations, President Fleming said, "You are smarter women because you came to college. But, you are better women because you came to Converse." Included in the list of seniors who were lauded for their efforts in and out of the classroom were:
Photo credit: Alex C. Hicks of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal