The inaugural issue of S.C. Trend magazine, on newsstands in August 2006, features an in-depth interview with Converse President Betsy Fleming. We invite our friends to read this article below. For more information and to subscribe to S.C. Trend, call (800) 428-7363 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Betsy Fleming, a daughter of Spartanburg, returns to become the ninth president of Converse College and chart a new course for the 117-year-old women’s school.
BY CAROL CARTER
A full-page advertisement in The NewYork Times last winter announced that the Petrie School of Music at Converse College in Spartanburg had obtained status as an All-Steinway school.
The advertisement, a first for the college, is part of Converse President Betsy Fleming’s strategy to expand the visibility of the four-year, single-gender liberal arts college. One of Fleming’s priorities is “to make sure that every young woman actively considers taking advantage of a Converse education.We need to make sure,” she says, “that if it’s right for someone that they know about us and they come here.” And so, she began spreading the word with the advertisement.
“We are the 51st in the world to have the designation, and we are the only women’s college,” Fleming says. “It is a major investment in equipment, which means we are making a major investment for our faculty and students. It means that we use only Steinway in our practice spaces and all of our performance spaces and that we take care of them in a very specific and attentive way.”
The achievement is impressive and its use as a marketing strategy is bold – and emblematic of Fleming’s new style of leadership.
On the day the advertisement appeared, Fleming’s office received e-mails or calls from around the county, thus the ninth president of the 117-year-old college in the heart of downtown Spartanburg began to make her mark on the school after assuming the president’s job in October of last year. In the past, Fleming says,”Converse may have been a little white-gloved in sharing its strengths – which is very Southern.”
Fleming should know a thing or three about Southern ways.This daughter of Spartanburg returned home to lead the institution where, as a youngster, she took ballet and music lessons and glided through the waters of the Converse College pool during swim team meets.
“Converse is where I started to develop some of my early passions within the realm of the arts, and there’s never been a Converse president with that expertise,” says Fleming, who is on track to receive her Ph.D. from Yale University later this year.
The 1990 magna cum laude art history graduate from Harvard University received a master’s of art in the history of design from the Royal College of Art in London in 1993. She was a Henry S. McNeil Fellow at Yale University, where she earned a master of arts and a master of philosophy in the history of art.Today, she’s working on the final chapter of her doctoral dissertation. “I’ve been slow on that part. It’s been following me around like Damocles sword,” she laughs.
Fleming’s mother is a Converse alumna, Class of 1965. “I grew up being very familiar with this campus,” says the 37-year-old whose parents – encouraging her to spread her wings – sent her to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire to finish her last two years of high school.Then, she says, “I continued my journey in the Northeast.”
After graduating from Harvard, Fleming – a downhill skier – lived in Vail, Colo., where she worked in a store selling socks.