South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, was awarded to Converse College President Betsy Fleming during the College’s commencement ceremony on Saturday. It was Fleming’s final commencement service as ninth president of the college, as her eleven-year tenure ends next month.
Governor Nikki Haley recognized Fleming for her impact at Converse and in higher education at the state and national levels, as well as her service to the arts, civic and business community locally and nationally.
“Your passion for advancing and expanding education opportunities has been an inspiration to many, and your hard work has resulted in a remarkable transformation at the college.”
“Your passion for advancing and expanding education opportunities has been an inspiration to many, and your hard work has resulted in a remarkable transformation at the college…Your contribution will have a lasting impact for years to come,” said Governor Haley in her award letter. Representative Rita Allison presented the award on behalf of Governor Haley.
Among Fleming’s most notable accomplishments is reducing Converse’s tuition price by 43% in 2014, a move that drew national media attention and has led Converse to serve as a resource for several colleges exploring similar moves. Fleming has spoken locally and nationally on the topic, and was invited by the Council of Independent Colleges to serve on the Steering Committee on the Future of Higher Education to help colleges think differently about their business models.
Fleming has served on the boards of the Women’s College Coalition, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Council of Presidents for the Association of Governing Boards. She has chaired the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas, served on the board of South Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities, and chaired the South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission, among other roles.
“Betsy Fleming’s transformation of Converse over the last decade has solidified its future as one of our state’s greatest resources for women and girls.”
Under Fleming’s leadership Converse has also established several new academic programs, becoming the only women’s college in the nation to compete at the NCAA Division II level, expanding from 5 to 12 sports programs, raising more than $76 million to support the college, constructing an apartment housing complex and an athletic field house, renovating academic and residential facilities, enhancing technology throughout campus, reorganizing the college’s operating structure, and establishing the Converse International School to support new partnerships with universities around the world – with first-year enrollment of 58 Chinese students who will arrive on campus in fall 2017.
These accomplishments led to a 30% growth in the traditional undergraduate student population during her tenure, with this year representing the largest undergraduate enrollment in at least 25 years.
“The women’s colleges in our state play a critical role through their distinct ability to help women discover their unique voice, value and vision for effecting positive change in the world,” said Spartanburg businessman Benjamin Wall in nominating Fleming for the award. “Betsy Fleming’s transformation of Converse over the last decade has solidified its future as one of our state’s greatest resources for women and girls.”
The award nomination received support from local and regional business leaders, higher education colleagues, arts community leaders, and elected officials.
“In the world of making a positive difference, you have been an incredibly effective leader in many areas.”
Prior to coming to Converse, Fleming served as executive director of the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, where she grew admissions by 20%, annual contributions by 74%, and total membership dollars by 98%.
Beyond education and the arts, she has participated in the Liberty Fellowship South Carolina, and served on the Boards of Directors for the South Carolina ETV Endowment, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond – Charlotte Branch.
“In the world of making a positive difference, you have been an incredibly effective leader in many areas,” said Governor Haley.