On April 23, Converse honored its past, present and future during a memorable Founder’s Day celebration in Twichell Auditorium. The day’s festivities kicked off with a rousing welcome from President Fleming, who called upon the Converse community to be bold in their lives. The Founder’s Day keynote address was given by alumna Berry Bate ’75, whose year-long sculpture exhibition, “The Emerging Spirit” was officially opened during the service. Each of the exhibition’s sculptures represents an aspect of the experiences and qualities that are unique to the women of Converse. “This show brings to life a vision that has been quietly evolving within me for many years. The pieces reflect the virtues instilled at a women’s college, and specifically those at Converse where the unique atmosphere provides a foundation for a lifetime sense of unity, support, spirituality, strength and self-actualization,” said Bate, who was rewarded with a standing-ovation from the audience.
Converse’s commitments to women in science and to building an athletic program that prioritizes academic excellence were also at the forefront during the ceremony. The event featured the second annual presentation of the Weisiger Cup to an outstanding senior athlete and the presentation of two scholarship awards to incoming freshmen who have been named Weisiger Outstanding Scholar Athletes. After honoring these remarkable students, Fleming shifted her focus and named not one, but two members of the Converse staff as recipients of the Spirit of Converse Award—Mark Osinga and John James. The ceremony also included the official induction of the Class of 1960 into the Golden Club.
Rachel Wilkes was recognized as the second recipient of the Weisiger Cup during the service. The student-athlete who receives this award is a young woman who has a proven record of leadership and community building skills, is a valuable member of the campus community and an asset to her team. Wilkes’s name will be added to the sterling silver trophy that is permanently housed in the Weisiger Center.
A vocal performance major who has been active in music productions throughout her years at Converse, Wilkes is also a member of the Valkyries tennis team and has been recognized as Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Academic All-Conference. She shines on the tennis court and has led her team as captain, as well as having been honored with the most-improved award and coach’s award. As a musician, Wilkes is a two-time section-winner and regional qualifier for the South Carolina competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Academics have been first priority throughout her Converse career, resulting in her induction into Alpha Lambda Delta as a freshman and her selection as a Junior Marshal last year. Writing is also among her many talents and she has won a creative nonfiction award and serves as a peer editor in the Writing Center.
Wilkes has volunteered for the College Town Service Initiative, the Make-A-Wish Foundation service project, The South Carolina School for Deaf and Blind’s HALTAR program, and Converse’s Girl’s Day event. This year, she is serving as vice president of Mortar Board.
Wilkes has explored her career goal of arts administration through internships at the Arts Partnership of Spartanburg and Newberry Opera House where she made significant contributions and impressed her colleagues. Following graduation, she plans to pursue her master’s in arts administration.
Weisiger Outstanding Scholar Athletes
Incoming freshmen Kandace Griffin from Birmingham, AL and Jessica Pope from Kennesaw, GA. were introduced as the 2010 Weisiger Outstanding Scholar Athletes. Recipients of this scholarship must have a proven record of academic success, aspire to major and pursue careers in the sciences and be dedicated to playing an NCAA Division II sport during their college career. Candidates must compete in the annual Dexter Edgar Converse scholarship competition in order to be selected. Both of this year’s recipients have been accepted into Converse’s Nisbet Honors program.
Kandace Griffin plans to major in biology at Converse. A scholar athlete, Griffin attends Jefferson County International Bacculeraute High School where she has played volleyball for four years. She will join the Valkyries volleyball team this fall. Described as having “a beaming smile, enthusiastic spirit and quick mind that create an atmosphere of joy wherever she goes,” Griffin is an excellent student and an International Baccalaureate candidate, and ranks in the top one percent of her class.
Focused, determined and disciplined, the second scholar athlete, Jessica Pope attends Kennesaw Mountain High School. Pope has been a part of the swim team during high school and will swim for the Valkryies at Converse. She will graduate with a better-than-4.0 GPA and achieved a 1210 on the SAT. Pope plans to major in biology at Converse and attend medical school upon graduation.
The Weisiger Family Legacy
Agnes Weisiger, a member of the Converse Class of 1963, has made giving her life-long passion and priority. She has given greatly of herself by dedicating more than 38 years of her life to nursing, and her philanthropy and leadership have benefited Converse and many other cultural and educational organizations throughout the Southeast. Agnes and her husband, Ed, have been champions for Converse College, and their family ties to Converse include Agnes’s grandmother Agnes King Watkins (Class of 1901) and daughter-in-law Lisa Weisiger, who is an alumna from the Class of 1984 and a current trustee.
Spirit of Converse Award
President Fleming presented the Spirit of Converse award to Mark Osinga and John James. The Spirit of Converse Award is given to employees who embody the core values of the college and positively impact the Converse community through their professional and personal contributions. This annual award is one of the college’s most distinctive honors and provides an important opportunity to celebrate those who go above and beyond the call of duty in serving Converse and her students, faculty, staff, alumnae and friends. Recipients of the award are selected because they serve as an example for the community through their commitment and contributions to the college, support of colleagues, team spirit, cooperation, enthusiasm and loyalty.
In presenting the award to Mark Osinga, facility planner for Converse, President Betsy Fleming recognized Osinga’s “can do” attitude and team player spirit. “He is respected and admired not only by his division colleagues, but also by the broader campus community and the Board of Trustees, He is known for going beyond the call of duty and his willingness to jump in to get the job done, regardless of the task,” she said. President Fleming also jokingly noted Osinga’s willingness to go so far as to put on scuba diving gear to change the cover to the drain at the bottom of the pool in order to save the cost of outsourcing this service.
The second award recipient, John James, is chief technology officer at Converse. President Fleming praised James for being passionate about his work and for the enjoyment he finds in sharing his knowledge with others. “He is innovative, creative and has a great sense of humor. John James has a true love for Converse and embodies the spirit of Converse and her core values,” she said. James was also commended for actively working in the Upstate community to promote Converse and encourage young women to enroll at the college.