The Converse community mourns the loss of Spartanburg community leader and long-time Converse supporter, Robert H. “Rob” Chapman III, who died August 23, 2017. Chapman served on Converse College’s Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2010, and his deep connection to the College ran through both familial and community ties. His wife, Lacy Dennis ’73, is a Converse alumna and chaired the Inauguration Committee for President Betsy Fleming in 2005. His daughter, Dennis Chapman Hughes, served as Converse’s Director of Human Resources from 2013 to 2017. Many additional Chapman family members attended and supported Converse through the generations.
“The Converse family is deeply saddened by the loss of this great advocate and passionate champion,” said Converse President Krista L. Newkirk. “In my short time as president, it has become clear that both Rob and the Chapman family are inextricably linked with Converse College. Rob Chapman’s leadership and support shaped key initiatives that led to the record-breaking student enrollment we celebrated today as the Class of 2021 arrived on campus. He invested personally in these young women, and would have been thrilled to see them grow and flourish at Converse over the next four years.”
“He invested personally in these young women, and would have been thrilled to see them grow and flourish at Converse over the next four years.”
Chapman was a member of the Board when Betsy Fleming’s tenure as ninth president of the College began, and they worked together in that capacity for five years. She praised Chapman as a positive and engaged leader who believed most in empowering and supporting others. “He really believed in building the Converse community by recruiting and supporting good leaders who brought new ideas and innovative ways of thinking. He pushed for a big vision and strategy. He understood and actively articulated that we couldn’t keep doing the same things in the same way if we wanted to attract more high-quality students,” she said.
As Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, Chapman was an advocate for developing the Housing Master Plan that has guided Converse in creating progressively independent living environments across campus. His advocacy and leadership helped advance The Heath apartment housing project, in which Converse successfully raised the full project funds within three months and opened the apartments to upper-class students in 2011. “It was that project that really reshaped our thinking from scarcity to abundance, from incremental to impactful initiatives to grow the College,” said Fleming.
“He pushed for a big vision and strategy. He understood and actively articulated that we couldn’t keep doing the same things in the same way if we wanted to attract more high-quality students.”
Chapman also supported the College’s efforts to build an outstanding intercollegiate athletics program. He served on the Athletic Master Plan Committee, and held great enthusiasm for the College’s distinction as the only women’s college competing at the NCAA Division II level. “He was particularly excited about the potential of the golf program and supported its launch with financial resources, by helping assess best resources such as local club partnerships, and by sharing the Converse golf program story with others as he traveled,” said Fleming.
“On a personal level,” she added, “Rob had such charm and wit, and always invested in supporting others– their ideas, their strengths and their work. He was amazing at building personal relationships, trust and confidence. By asking a few questions or making a simple statement, he could redirect a conversation to focus on the right strategy, even if it was bigger than originally thought possible.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Les Duggins, Spartanburg Herald-Journal