Converse alumni gathered for their annual reunion on campus to reconnect and relive their best college memories. On Saturday, they gathered in Wilson Hall’s Gee Dining Room to celebrate the achievements of their classmates during the Alumni Achievement Award Ceremony and Luncheon. Awards were presented to the following Converse alumni:
Carla Cantara ’07
Distinguished Alumna Award (Undergraduate)
Carla Kantara, PhD, is the associate vice president of business operations and development at Collaborative Clinical Research Solutions, Inc. With more than 14 years of experience in the fields of research, drug development, biotechnology, health innovations, and business development, she is responsible for developing strategic partnerships/alliances with academic, pharmaceutical, industry and healthcare partners for the company and its business clients. Dr. Kantara also supports and manages the day-to-day operations of the University of Texas (UT) System Clinical Trial Xpress initiative, a platform established to conduct multisite clinical trials across the UT institutions. She holds a PhD in biomedical sciences and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in advanced biomedical research strategies and management. She also earned degrees in mathematics and biology with a minor in chemistry as well as a Master’s in business administration with a focus in management of technologies and leadership.
Richard Troxell ’88
Distinguished Alumnus Award (Graduate)
Metropolitan Opera Tenor Richard Troxell brings equal parts charm and international experience to the stage. To look at him, one would not think he has a twenty-five-year career which spans across the great opera houses of the world, plus a recurring role on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and singing the National Anthem for the opening game of Major League Baseball’s American League Championship. This year has been a season of debuts for Troxell as he made his Broadway Debut with the New York City Center’s Tony Honored “Encores” Series in Rodgers and Sondheim’s “Do I Hear a Waltz.” Three weeks later, Troxell made his role debut as Pablo Neruda, Placido Domingo’s role, in Saratoga Opera’s production of Il Postino. He recently released an album, Classic Broadway with Maestro Steven Mercurio and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, and last year released So In Love, a collection of Jazz favorites.
Gillian Goodrich ’68
Community Service Award
Gillian White Goodrich is president of the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, which is focused on education, human services, and the environment. She has served on the Board of Directors at Converse College, McWane Science Center, Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham where she was chair in 2013. Currently, she serves on the board of the YWCA, Gateway, and the Alabama Heritage Foundation. In 2006, she was appointed to the Board of the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History. Goodrich is a member of the Alabama Historical Society, and the Birmingham Historical Society. She and her husband were honored by the Alabama Chapter of Fundraising Professionals as Outstanding Civic Leaders in 2004, and again as Outstanding Philanthropists in 2011.
Sandy Hartnett ’75
Mae Elizabeth Kilgo Spirit Award
Sandra ‘Sandy’ Russell Hartnett began her career as a teacher at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, where she taught for twenty-six years. Hartnett served on the Converse Alumnae Board from 2014-2017, and now serves as Chair of the Alumnae Spartanburg Chapter. She also funded a student weight training room in the Montgomery Building on campus and dedicated it to Kayla Duran Manning ’15. Hartnett has been a member of the Middle Tyger YMCA for many years and has served on their board as a committee chairperson. She was certified as an instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and taught FitKids at the Spartanburg Athletic Club. She has been a volunteer for the HALTER program, Camp Impact, Mobile Meals and Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Currently, she is a member of the Shepherd’s Center.
Nakia Alexander ’97
Career Achievement Award
Throughout the course of her illustrious 20-year career, Nakia Martin Alexander has experienced great success as a public/civil servant for the United States Federal Government, having served as a special agent/criminal investigator with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Department of Defense, and Office of Inspector General. Alexander is currently a sitting member of the Department of Justice’s Healthcare Fraud Working Group, and mentors aspiring agents in the agency’s Career Connections Mentoring Program. She is an active member of the Defense Department’s Employee Engagement Council, continuing to make recommendations for process improvement. Alexander is an active member of the Association for Certified Fraud Examiners, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. She participates in community service activities in the areas of global public relations, human/civil rights, leadership and civic responsibilities.
Suzanne Ferguson ’60
Career Achievement in Music Award
Throughout Suzanne Butts Ferguson’s career, she has pursued and promoted early music, inspired by classes with Edward R. Reilly at Converse. Learning the recorder and the viola da gamba as an adult, she started the Columbus Recorder Society and several baroque consorts. She later played in Cleveland with The North Coast Consort of Viols. After retirement, she played in Florida with the Tamiami Consort and Green Flash. Her interest in baroque and earlier repertoire pushed her to develop the concert series, “Early Music in Columbus,” which began at Capital University in 1980 and continues today. She became the founding board president of Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra; was elected to the national Board of the American Recorder Society from 1980-1988; and served as president of the Viola da Gamba Society of America from 2000-2008. She writes frequent reviews for American Recorder, and the Viola da Gamba Society News.
Natacha Karambizi ’15
Young Alumnae Award
Natacha Karambizi was born and raised in Rwanda. She did not see her family for the four years she attended Converse, until they traveled to the United States for her commencement ceremony, where she graduated magna cum laude. Her first novella, Mahoro, a Little Girl’s Search for Peace, was published by ImagineWE Rwanda, an organization working to develop a reading and writing culture in the country. Her book is a story of resilience, inspired by the experiences of her fellow Rwandans and particularly of her father, who chose to rebuild his family and dedicate his life to promoting peace and reconciliation. Karambizi is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in biological sciences at Clemson University. Her future goals include involvement with global health equity efforts to promote prevention practices in underprivileged communities, as well as working to improve literacy efforts in her native country of Rwanda.
Susan Kovas ’81
STAR Recruitment Award
Susan Hasty Kovas serves as a professional school counselor at Chester Senior High School. Spanning a 26-year career in counseling, Susan has worked in the Walterboro School District, Gaston County Schools, and Chester County Schools. She also serves her community as a member of the Chester City Council. She is Chair of WorkAbility, a (501(c)3 non-profit that works to promote opportunities for those with special needs, and serves on the board of the South Carolina United Methodist Church Aldersgate Ministry.
Congratulations to the 2018 Converse Alumni Achievement Award winners. Each one is a strong representation of Converse College values in their respective careers and service to the community. Recipients are nominated by peers, faculty and alumni, and selected annually by the Recognition Committee of the Alumnae/i Association Board.