Throughout their four years at Converse, the Class of 2017 has explored their interests, developed their individual passions, and honed their personal definitions of success. They leave our gates as passionate, service-oriented citizens who stand ready to make a positive difference in their professions and communities.
Converse awarded Bachelor’s degrees to 179 women during the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20. The highly-decorated class included 32 students graduating cum laude, 20 graduating magna cum laude, and 16 graduating summa cum laude. Nearly 60% of the class had accepted a job offer or enrolled in a graduate school program at the time of commencement. In typical Converse fashion, the class was highly involved in leadership, service, independent and collaborative research, professional and creative experiences, study travel, and athletics.
Kimilee Bryant ’88, accomplished musician who sang the lead role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway as well as in Switzerland and Toronto, returned home to Converse to give the commencement address. Sharing her life’s journey and insights gained along the way, she implored the graduates to “Have a plan and a dream, and take the steps to make that dream come true. You have begun by obtaining a wonderful education. Now, with the confidence you have in that, follow through. Someone has to get that job, win that role, start a company, cure an illness, win that gold medal. Why not you?”
Photos of the Day
Video Highlights from the Ceremony
- Kirby Lesesne Presents the Senior Class Gift
- Awards and Special Recognitions Presentation
- Kimilee Bryant ’88 Gives the Commencement Address
- President Krista Newkirk Bids the Graduates Farewell
About the Class of 2017
- 45% participated in a faculty-student research or other creative independent experiences at Converse.
- 40% held an internship during their time at Converse.
- Just over half held a leadership role in a campus organization.
- 31% participated in service opportunities on and off campus.
- 26% participated in study travel, visiting 13 countries ranging from Argentina, Peru, the Caribbean and Cuba to Europe (Amsterdam, Germany, France, England, Greece), and Thailand.
- 18% are student athletes.
- 13% are Converse II students (24 and older).
- 35% report being the first in their immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
- Nearly 90% assert that Converse has prepared them well for their path after college.
Graduate School Acceptances
Members of the Class of 2017 have been accepted to prestigious graduate programs in a wide variety of fields. Highlights include: Sanuja Goonetilleke was accepted into graduate programs for arts in education at both Cambridge University and Harvard University, and has accepted her offer from Harvard. Kelsey Barber will attend medical school at the Medical College of Georgia. Laura Ann Dixon has enrolled in nursing school at the Medical University of South Carolina. Grace Frazor will attend the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. Ashley Brown will pursue her PhD in Experimental Psychology at Kings College in London. Emma Woodbright will pursue a master’s degree in Graphic Communications from Clemson University. Shannon O’Farrell will pursue a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Augusta University. Carson Rehn and Heather McCrayl with both attend veterinary school – Carson at The Royal School of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland and Heather at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine.
The new graduates are ready to make their mark in their chosen professions, with jobs such as these: Keryyn Stroud will serve full-time as prop designer for GLOW Lyric Theatre in Greenville, SC. Hannah Anderson completed her internship with Jane Schwab Interiors in Charlotte, NC, owned by Jane Boatwright Schwab ’77, and was hired as a full-time Design Assistant. Ariel Wingard will participate in The World Race, a yearlong mission challenge for young adults to serve poverty-stricken populations, which will take her to the Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Zoe Daab will parlay her volunteer and internship experience across the Spartanburg community into a full-time position serving as Outreach Coordinator with SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition. And 15 of our education majors have already accepted K-12 teaching positions across the region.
Commencement Awards & Recognitions
During the ceremony, Converse recognized several outstanding faculty and students, as well as Spartanburg community member Liberty Canzater. The following awards were presented:
- Kathryne Amelia Brown Award – Dr. Douglas Jensen, Associate Professor of Biology
- Cato Award for Faculty Excellence – Dr. Chandra Owenby Hopkins, Assistant Professor of Theatre
- O’Herron Award for Faculty Excellence – Dr. Mirko Hall, Professor of German Studies and Chair of Languages, Cultures and Literatures
- The Weisiger Cup (athletics) – Laura Ann Dixon ’17, Bachelor of Arts in Biology
- Elford C. Morgan Award (highest GPA in sciences and humanities) – Jenna Brock ’17, Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Spanish; and Leslie Hardin ’17, Bachelor of Arts in History
- Pi Kappa Lambda Award (highest GPA in music) – Darby Jones ’17, Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance
- Mary Mildred Sullivan Student Award (community service) – Ametria Harrison ’17, Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
- Mary Mildred Sullivan Community Award – Liberty Canzater, Founder of the Butterfly Foundation
Dr. Jeffrey Willis, Director of Archives and Special Collections and Andrew Helmus Professor of History Emeritus, was also honored for 50 years of service to the College.
As the academic year comes to a close, Converse bids a fond farewell to six retiring faculty members and extends our deepest gratitude for their impact and service. Retirees include:
- Prof. Roger Luttrell, Associate Professor of Accounting
- Dr. Jim Hymas, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
- Dr. Elena Mendez, Associate Professor of Physics
- Dr. Suzanne Schuweiler, Associate Professor of Art History
- Dr. Terrell Tracy, Assistant Professor of Education and Director of the EdS in Literacy program
- Dr. Melissa Walker, George Dean Johnson Professor of History and Humanities Divisional Coordinator (Dr. Walker was selected by the President to serve as Grand Marshal, who leads the academic procession bearing the Converse Mace during formal convocations including Commencement.)