Honoring Kurt & Nelly Zimmerli, Our Friends and Champions for the Arts
On Saturday, October 12, Converse hosted the Grand Opening of the newly renovated Zimmerli Performance Center to celebrate the generosity of its campaign donors. Special appreciation was given to Life Trustee Kurt and his wife Nelly Zimmerli for championing a campaign to breathe new life into Twichell Auditorium. This historic facility hosts many different Upstate community organizations, including Converse’s own School of the Arts, and is one of the South’s leading performance venues.
“As the home for Twichell Auditorium and the Lawson Academy of the Arts, Zimmerli Performance Center will greet guests as they arrive for our community’s celebrated arts events for years to come.” – Krista Newkirk President, Converse College
By making a lead gift toward the total project cost of $3.5 million, the Zimmerlis fulfilled their dream of ensuring that Twichell Auditorium remains a showcase for world-class performances. Last renovated more than 30 years ago, this 1,500 seat auditorium has served more than 20,000 individuals each year. The new Zimmerli Performance Center now boasts new technology, greater accessibility, and refined amenities for performers and patrons.
During the reception, several speakers expressed their gratitude and shared reflections on Kurt and Nelly Zimmerli, including President Krista Newkirk; Kurt and Nelly’s daughter, Kathy Zimmerli Wofford ’09; and longtime friends Rick Dent and Converse Life Trustee Bill Barnet.
“Throughout the process, Kurt Zimmerli was involved with the renovations, asking thoughtful questions and pushing the contractors to meet their deadlines and stay on budget,” President Newkirk said. “His wealth of knowledge and prior experience in landscaping – including here on the Converse campus – meant that he reviewed the landscaping plan in detail. The care that he has demonstrated along every step of the renovation process is evident,” said President Newkirk.
Kurt Zimmerli could not attend the reception, and his presence was greatly missed by all in attendance. The event was filmed so the Zimmerlis have a keepsake of this special moment in the Upstate community.
As guests gathered inside Twichell Auditorium for the opening Rach 2 concert of Spartanburg Philharmonic’s “Locally Sourced” season, they were among the very first to enjoy enhancements to the venue, such as renovated bathrooms, improved climate control, and stage enhancements.
Prior to the performance, guests were encouraged to record special greetings for Kurt Zimmerli in the lobby. Spartanburg Philharmonic Music Director Stefan Sanders and Converse Director of the Petrie School of Music Dr. Chris Vaneman also hosted Classical Conversations before the concert.
Rach 2 opened with The Phoenix, a brand new work by Peter B. Kay celebrating the Zimmerlis and their support of music within the Spartanburg community. The concert also featured Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture followed by Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Overture.
Attendees also enjoyed a surprise performance of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise by Converse’s own Dr. Valerie McPhail, in honor of the late Dr. Joella Utley, Converse alumna and generous patron to the Upstate arts community.
As a finale, Dr. Douglas Weeks, a Babcock Professor of Piano and longtime friend to the Zimmerlis, performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Spartanburg Philharmonic as a special tribute for them.
In January 2020, installation will be complete for a state-of-the-art audio/video system, speakers, amplifiers, digital console, stage monitors, intercom and projector.
Providing decades of leadership and financial support for the arts at Converse College, Kurt and Nelly Zimmerli have woven their unique legacy into the fabric of our campus, and of the Spartanburg community.