After four decades on the Converse College campus, there’s no question that Joe Ann Lever’s fingerprints are all over this institution. And yet, the enduring impact of her career, despite countless accomplishments that advanced the quality of the Converse experience will forever be tied to the “can-do” attitude that she modeled for faculty, staff and students for 40 years.
On Thursday, December 9, the Converse family lauded Joe Ann’s life-time commitment to Converse with the naming of the Lever Auditorium in Kuhn Hall. Recently renovated from top to bottom this LEED certified building was once home for the beloved biology professor known by all as Dean Lever. “If the walls of Kuhn could talk, said Lever, it would be fun to go back in time. I had the privilege of teaching incredibly talented students. Every year the freshmen got younger looking and every year my hair got a little more gray!”
Hardly a grandmother when she joined the Converse community in 1962, Joe Ann was on the vanguard of women in education when she accepted the job of instructor of Biology. In the span of her career she went on to hold the posts of Associate Professor of Biology, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, president of the Faculty Senate, chairwoman for academic advisors, director of Career Services, director of Career Programs and Pre-Professional training, chairwoman of the Tenure and Promotion Committee, advisor for pre-medical and pre-dental students and co-chair of the College’s Centennial Celebration. Her distinguished career would take several pages to note, but her passion for Converse could be summed up in two words, “the students.”
Joe Ann’s journey with students was always a personal one. She encouraged and challenged the women of Converse at every opportunity. Her colleagues will tell you that she often believed in her students more than they believed in themselves, but that, they say, was the magic she possessed – teaching students to see their future as one of limitless possibilities. Hundreds of Dean Lever’s students went on to successful careers in biology, medicine and the health professions, and remarkably she continues to keep in touch with many of them.
Still a regular visitor on campus, an active donor to the College and a revered colleague, Joe Ann is still working on behalf of women, especially, said President Betsy Fleming, Converse women. “It is fitting to know that this state-of the-art auditorium in Kuhn will be a place where ideas, debate and creative exploration take place on a daily basis, and that every student in Lever Auditorium will benefit from Joe Ann Lever’s love of the very same academic ideals. This is a marvelous way to say thank-you to Joe Ann for all that she has given to Converse.”