Fall 2019 Opening Convocation: New Academic Year, Treasured Traditions
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Fall 2019 Opening Convocation: New Academic Year, Treasured Traditions

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The Converse community celebrated the College’s 130th Opening Convocation on Friday, October 18, by gathering in Twichell Auditorium. During this year’s ceremony, students, faculty and alumni experienced for the first time the beautiful revitalization of the iconic Zimmerli Performance Center.

Formally observing the start of our academic year, the program featured remarks from President Krista Newkirk and keynote speaker Dr. Suzanne Gunter, Converse’s Department Chair of Art and Design. Student Government Association (SGA) Treasurer Abigail Jolley ’21 also welcomed the student body on behalf of SGA President Tyerra Clayborne ’20.

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Reflecting on childhood memories of her grandmother, President Newkirk discussed in her Opening Convocation address how loss, heartbreak and trying moments can transform into a source of personal strength. She weaved this theme into the history of Zimmerli Performance Center’s most recent renovation.

“The most recent renovation really started because of a tragic accident. Kurt Zimmerli fell and broke his femur,” said President Newkirk. “Kurt is a music lover and was a regular at the symphony at Twichell. But after the accident, he found it very difficult to get access to Twichell to hear the music he loved.”

Because of Kurt Zimmerli’s tenacious spirit in the face of personal tragedy, this beloved auditorium now boasts updated accessibility features, such as more accessible seating, automatic door openers and an elevator.

“I hope that you will find a way to turn your personal tragedies into triumphs and a way to help others.” – President Newkirk

“I hope that you will find a way to turn your personal tragedies into triumphs and a way to help others,” said President Newkirk. “And, I hope that every time you enter the Zimmerli Performance Center, you remember that Mr. Zimmerli contributed his life to improving his adopted community and he turned his personal tragedy into this beautiful success.”
Before introducing the keynote speaker, Provost Jeffrey Barker announced Class of 2023 student academic recognitions and scholarship recipients. The Converse Symphony Orchestra and Converse Chorale performed musical selections during the service.

Dr. Susanne Gunter, the 2019 winner of our Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for teaching excellence, presented her keynote address titled “Every Artist Tells a Story.”

“For more than 20 years in the public schools as a classroom art teacher and for nearly 10 years at Converse, Dr. Gunter has excelled as a shaper of the artists and art teachers of the future,” said Provost Barker. “She has expanded and strengthened classes in Art Education, preparing numerous students for their turn in the classroom.”

In her keynote address, Dr. Gunter tied in the landscape of her family history to express how change is a necessary part of personal growth and success.

“I pray that you will have a glorious, long, strange trip full of good work, good family, and good friends, as I have.” – Dr. Susanne Gunter

“I wish that you have peace and joy and that you ride the waves of change as they come into your life gracefully and safely,” said Dr. Gunter. “I pray that you will have a glorious, long, strange trip full of good work, good family, and good friends, as I have.”