Alumna and nationally acclaimed author Michel Stone of Spartanburg was the keynote speaker for Converse College’s 2016 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14.
The graduating class began and ended their Converse experience with Stone, having read her award-winning novel, The Iguana Tree, the summer before their freshman year began. They arrived on campus armed with thoughts, questions, and ideas about the book, and began freshman orientation with a reading, talk and book signing by Stone.
In addressing the graduates, Stone said, “I’ve learned many lessons from my experiences as an author, a wife, and a mother, but I can assure you that it matters not whether you define yourself as any of these things. Nor does your gender, your ethnicity, your religious background, your orientation, or your social status matter. I can tell you with utmost certainty that people are much more alike than we are different, and our struggles in this world are similar. We all experience hope, joy, sadness, fear, and love. We experience birth and death and the whole range of humanness in between the two.”
Listen to Stone’s full commencement address:
This was Stone’s first commencement address, and she said giving it at her alma mater – and to this class in particular – was a very meaningful. “This graduating class is special to me because they began their Converse journey reading my novel,” she said. “I’ll always remember that September day we gathered to discuss my book. Their insights, sincerity, and close reading of my work made a lasting impression on me. Their invitation to speak at Commencement delights me because I get one more opportunity to be with these incredible women I met four years ago.”