The Converse community took an important step forward on Friday, September 21, 2018, with a day dedicated to deepening our understanding and appreciation of each other, of our past, and how to build an inclusive future together. It was the centerpiece of a year-long celebration marking 50 years since the College’s first Black students enrolled. Alumnae from near and far gathered on campus, beginning the day by sharing their stories and experiences with current Converse students for a research project will result in an exhibit on Converse’s history of African American students next spring. Then, they reunited with classmates to process into Twichell Auditorium alongside faculty and the senior class for Opening Convocation, where they were welcomed with thunderous applause from students, faculty, staff, and local community members gathered for the event.
The program included reflections from President Krista Newkirk, SGA President Jayda Means ’19, and Converse’s first African American board chair, Phyllis Perrin Harris ’72; a keynote address from Dr. Rafael Hernandez, recipient of the 2018 Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching; and a moving performance by an Alumnae Gospel Choir. Following lunch, the day turned to special topic sessions designed to facilitate conversations that educate, break down barriers, and inspire us to build on our core values of diversity, respect, community and progress. A reception to toast the day and savor friendships both old and new capped off our celebration.
We invite you to read the story of our first two Black students, Margaret Jones Swindler and Freida Rogers Byrd, to read about the distinguished alumnae panel discussion that kicked-off our celebration last February, and to learn more about the year-long series.