During the annual Founder’s Day celebration last Friday, the Converse community was riveted by the poignant, humor-filled keynote address of MacArthur Foundation Fellow Ellen Bryant Voigt ’64, heartened by the well-deserved recognition of award winners, and filled with both laughter and tears as we celebrated our farewell for President Betsy Fleming.
In her keynote address, Ellen Voigt wisely reflected, “Creative thinking is very hard work. It doesn’t swagger. It is full of self-doubt. It doesn’t dazzle in the blogosphere. It keeps you circling and idling going nowhere, and yet it is what drives any field of inquiry forward – whether the sciences or humanities, social sciences or the arts. Because what it circles toward with diligence and a little luck is a thrilling discovery – some congruence between almost any disparate objects you choose to observe. No matter where you enter the web, you can find the spider.”
Voigt received a hearty welcome home by her classmates, who formed a cheering section in the crowd. She also participated in a sell-out book signing on Saturday for Reunion Weekend. The Founder’s Day ceremony marked President Fleming’s final time together with the entire campus community before her tenure ends in June.
Board chairman Ben Wall hosted a series of surprise recognitions to honor her leadership, including a resolution from the South Carolina Legislature presented by Representative Rita Allison, tributes from the United States Congress entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy, and a “roasting” skit by Alumnae Board members Stinson Ferguson ’07 and Samantha Nicholson ’12. The two joked about what President Fleming’s next endeavor will be (they recommended becoming a ski instructor), her love of lifelong learning (she has more letters behind her last name than in her last name), her voluminous hair (it’s so big because her head is full of dreams), and her mastering of the art of alliteration (purpose, passion, purple, power shopping…).
The campus community enjoyed getting in on the fun by donning the “Betsy hair” found in their programs. Through laughter and tears, we all enjoyed the bittersweet farewell. On Saturday, the Converse Alumnae Association named President Fleming an Honorary Alumna during their annual meeting and awards brunch.