Converse College conferred 147 bachelor’s and master’s degrees during its 118th commencement May 15 in Twichell Auditorium.
Converse alumna, Carol Puckett ’74, delivered the commencement address. Puckett is the Director of Special Projects for Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood, Mississippi, and currently serves as Chairman of the Mississippi Arts Commission and is on the board of directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, the International Ballet Competition, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Delta State University Foundation and the B.B. King Museum. Puckett is the founder of the Everyday Gourmet, a cooking school and gourmet retail store in Jackson, Mississippi and owner of a companion store, the Everyday Gardener.
Puckett graduated from Converse with a BA in English and history in 1974. During her address to her fellow Pink Panthers, Puckett expressed how her personal experience at Converse went beyond receiving a top-quality education, and was a transformational experience. “It was here, I was transformed from a girl to a woman; from a student to a life-long learner and from a follower to a leader. It was here that I learned to think for myself, and believe in myself. It was here I found my voice, and the values that would carry me forward.”
Puckett challenged the Class of 2010 to be forces of positive change. “We can’t sit around and wait for change to happen, you…we…must be the agents of change. As you climb the ladder, you must remember to leave the ladder down. Not only leave the ladder down, but reach down and pull up other women—whether they are next door, in the next office or in Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
Remarks and Presentation of Class Gift
Upon taking to the stage Anna Lockamy ’10, President of the Class of 2010, led her classmates in a rousing class cheer “1…0…you know!” a sound that she said this campus will surely miss. On behalf of the class, Lockamy presented a unique senior gift that will add both comfort and character to the senior apartment complex—a series of hammocks that will serve as a gathering spot for a little “chill time” for Converse women. The Class of 2010 hopes that the hammocks will be laughed in, napped in and studied in on a daily basis by their fellow Converse sisters.
Also, in keeping with the tradition started last year by the Class of 2009, Lockamy announced that the class is investing in a granite stone that will be engraved with the class theme and year and be placed in the walkway leading up to the new student apartments. In addition to the hammocks and stone, the Class of 2010 also raised over $3,500 for the Converse Annual Fund.
Beyond the tangible gifts, Lockamy also talked about the class legacy and the “Pink Panther paw print” that they will leave behind on the College, “The classrooms we’ve sat in, the halls we’ve walked, the events we’ve planned, the professors we challenged and the faculty we’ve collaborated with. All will be forever changed by our legacy of hard work, intelligent minds and creative living.”
Farewell to the Graduates
With heartfelt emotion, President Fleming addressed the class that holds a very special place in her heart. “You are the first class that I helped recruit to Converse. I was certainly impressed then by your talent and potential. But, your audacity, achievement and action orientation here at Converse has tickled me PINK!”
Describing the class as “dreamers who do,” President Fleming highlighted the collective accomplishments of the Class of 2010, including being the first class to ever win the 1889 Cup two years in a row. She also congratulated Converse’s first ever graduates with individualized majors—Tiana Pires in oral and written communication studies and Mary English in non-profit management: philanthropy toward women.
The Class of 2010 leaves Converse with plans to pursue exciting careers and post-graduate study in prestigious programs. Members of the class have been awarded graduate school placements from the following institutions, among others:
- Auburn University
- Baylor Law School
- Renssealer Polytechnic Institute
- Emory Divinity School
- Florida State University
- McAffee School of Theology
- Medical University of South Carolina
- Converse College
In closing, Fleming said, “The individual and collective accomplishments of these graduates testify to the important role that this single-gender liberal arts institution has played in shaping these young women for personal and professional success.”
Several awards were presented during the commencement service.
Katelyn Ridenour of Spartanburg received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for Community Service. Recognized for her outstanding academic and leadership qualities throughout her four years at Converse, Ridenour double majored in music and earned degree in piano performance and clarinet performance. She was named Young Artist Concerto Competition winner for 2009-2010 and served as the Committee Chair for Mortar Board’s Probe Symposium. Her service as Secretary General of the 2010 National Model NATO and her work as Assistant Director of Summer Programs at Converse provided her award nominator with ample evidence of her energy, level of maturity and responsibility and her people skills. The nomination praises Katelyn as being “characterized by her exceptional intelligence, maturity, work ethic, professionalism, modesty and dignity; but the most salient features are her impeccable character and determination. When she says she will do something, it is a guarantee.”
Spartanburg community member Marsha Gibbs was also awarded the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for her contributions to the Spartanburg community. Gibbs, a member of the Converse Board of Trustees, has been a significant contributor to the College as well as the Spartanburg community, including the establishment of the Marsha H. Gibbs Endowed Scholarship Fund and the establishment of the funding for the Gibbs Memorial Chapel at Converse. Her leadership in the health field has included a generous lead gift together with her husband to establish the Gibbs Cancer Center at the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
Rachel Wilkes of Chapin, SC and Anna Grace Strange of Hendersonville, NC were presented with the Pi Kappa Lambda Award, which is given to the senior(s) with the highest academic record in the Petrie School of Music.
Ingeborg Haddox of Oss, Netherlands earned the Elford C. Morgan Award for having the highest academic record in the College of Arts and Sciences at Converse.
Described as a “can do” professor, Dr. Mirko Hall, Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages, was honored with the Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching.
While the study of German can be challenging enough, the prospects of learning the complexities of Arabic can be downright frightening. Hall takes the fear out of foreign language. Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Barker says, “Mirko Hall teaches difficult, demanding subjects with an élan that delights students and makes them want to learn.” His Department Chair, Dr. Rafael Hernandez, notes in his nomination that “Dr. Hall is an excellent teacher. He is very competent in his academic fields, uses a variety of innovative teaching methods, and has a great sense of space. His dynamic and effective teaching energizes the students from beginning to end.”
Students have been quick to add their praise for Dr. Hall’s effectiveness in the classroom. One student declares: “Mirko is a phenomenal professor. It is abundantly clear that he was familiar not only with the texts themselves but also with key concepts and themes within German literature.” Another echoes that sentiment saying, “Mirko is a fabulous professor and does an outstanding job of explaining the information and material in a practical and easy to understand way.” And yet another says, “Mirko is awesome. He could teach anything well.”