Responding to explosive growth of the Converse Valkyries Athletics Program over the last decade, Jimmy Gibbs and his wife, Converse Trustee Marsha Gibbs, have made a $2.5 million gift to help fund construction of the 14,000 square-foot Marsha H. Gibbs Field House and enhancements to the Valkyries playing fields. This investment from the Gibbs, who are long-time Spartanburg community leaders and Converse supporters, is the lead gift towards the project’s total cost of over $4 million.
“The Gibbs Field House will be second to none in Division II athletics and will expand Converse’s opportunity to recruit high achieving student-athletes.”
“Converse is breaking the mold for women’s athletics. As the only women’s college in NCAA Division II, the Valkyries compete at a higher level than any other women’s college in the nation,” said Converse President Betsy Fleming. “The recent growth and success of our athletic programs demanded a reassessment of the investment required to support our progress both now and in the future. Marsha and Jimmy’s excitement about the project is tied to their belief in the value of a higher education, their appreciation of the growing interest from girls in playing competitive sports, and their endorsement of the strong leadership of Joy Couch. This tremendous gift also reflects Marsha’s passion for advancing women and families in our community.”
The Gibbs Field House project adds to the college’s recent athletics investments of $120,000 for its equestrian program, $150,000 for a new golf program, and $250,000 in pool enhancements.
The Field House, estimated to cost $3 million, will include:
- 5 locker rooms
- A weight training facility
- Indoor/outdoor golf training facilities
- Indoor golf bays
- Outdoor chipping/putting green
- 8 coaching/administrative offices
- An Academic Support Center
- A rooftop terrace
- Terraced seating
- A Sports Information Box
- A catering facility
Converse anticipates breaking ground this fall and beginning construction in February, with the facility opening in early 2014. Field enhancements, including the installation of a turf field and a new half-size field, are anticipated to occur in the near future.
“The Gibbs Field House will be second to none in Division II athletics and will expand Converse’s opportunity to recruit high achieving student-athletes,” said Athletic Director Joy Couch. “The rapid growth of our programs over the last decade created a great need for expanded facilities, and this project will complete the picture in positioning us to build a winning program.”
“We are excited to be part of this project,” said Marsha Gibbs. “A strong athletics program is a great attractor for young women, and a facility of this quality will enable Converse students to enjoy a top-level experience in collegiate athletics. Betsy and Joy have such passion for making a difference in the lives of Converse students, and Jimmy and I wholeheartedly share their enthusiasm.”
Converse has doubled its number of sports programs over last decade (from 5 to 10) and nearly quadrupled its number of student-athletes (from 37 to 137). Student-athletes have shifted from comprising 7% to 25% of the student body. Converse aims to increase its recruiting by 27 athletes next year by adding Track and Field and expanding the new golf team and other programs. The current roster of Valkyries teams includes Basketball, Cross Country, Equestrian, Golf, Lacrosse, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball.
Couch attributes much of Converse’s success to its niche in the NCAA Division II market. “Women’s colleges are particularly well-suited to the Division II philosophy, which prioritizes a balance between academic excellence and athletic achievement,” she said. “Our student-athletes know from the moment they are recruited by Converse that we embrace this philosophy, and they become community members who contribute across all facets of campus life.”
Recent success of the Valkyries athletics program includes:
- Valkyries recently won their 4th (out of the last 5 years of conference membership) Allan Sharp Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the highest graduation rate within Conference Carolinas. Additionally, 48 Converse student-athletes were named to the Conference Carolinas Presidential Honor Roll for 2012.
- Since its inception in 2009, the swim team has produced Converse’s first two All-American athletes in history, achieved a top 25 national ranking, had two swimmers selected for NCAA National Championships, and achieved Scholar All-American Team status every semester.
- Converse established an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) affiliated equestrian program in 2011. Freshman Equestrian rider Cate Billings placed 14th in the Cacchione Cup at the IHSA National Championship last spring. This is the highest level of collegiate riding in which an athlete can compete.
- Golf was added to the roster of sports in 2011, and began competition this fall.Track and Field was announced as a new sport this fall and will begin competing in fall 2013.
Marsha and Jimmy Gibbs have given significant support to a wide variety of projects that enhance the Converse experience. Their leadership gifts range from funding the Gibbs Chapel for the Montgomery Student Center, to construction of The Heath apartment housing that opened in 2011, to establishment of the Marsha H. Gibbs Endowed Scholarship Fund. The Gibbs Scholarship was most recently awarded to Meagan Kusek, who received a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship while at Converse and graduated this year.
In 2010, Converse presented Marsha Gibbs with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for community service, and in 2008 she received the Community Champion award from the Mary Black Foundation for her work in early childhood development with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Together, the Gibbs have been named Philanthropists of the Year by Spartanburg Regional Healthcare and the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. Individually, they have each received many recognitions from community organizations.
Jimmy Gibbs is Founder and Chairman of Gibbs International, Inc. With more than 3 decades of success in the used equipment industry, the Gibbs name has become synonymous with innovation and cutting edge technology, impacting the textile, real estate, energy, and mining industry worldwide. In 2009, Mr. Gibbs became Managing Partner and Chairman of Albatros Energy, an international energy company that provides state of the art power solutions and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) around the globe. He serves as director of many companies and charitable organizations.