The 2018 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of our first Black students enrolling at Converse College. Throughout the year we are reflecting on the courage of these women, our heritage and growth, as well as the work still ahead of us. This is the third in a series featuring our alumnae.
By Courtney Hammett ‘19
Hattie Evans Boyce attended Converse from 1978-1982, and in this time joined the Gospel Choir. The choir practiced Monday nights in Blackman, doubling from ten to twenty members in its first years and performing in local churches.
Thirty-six years later the choir was invited to perform on the Converse campus community during Opening Convocation, which kicked-off to the year-long Celebrating Courage events series in 2018.
“It was a blessing to come here and do that,” says Boyce, who conducted the group. Fourteen members of the choir ended up on stage, all from varying class years. Listening from the audience, one would never guess they’d only performed together that once. Boyce said, “the Lord gave me just two songs that might be appropriate.” These were an a cappella version of “Encourage My Soul,” and “Total Praise” by the Richard Smallwood Choir.
Met with standing ovations, Boyce called the experience “priceless.” It even drew in alumnae who initially were hesitant to participate. “I understand that people had different experiences, some maybe not as pleasant,” said Boyce gently.
It’s a privilege, a blessing to be able to come to Converse.
Boyce described her Converse years fondly and vividly: “It really was a blessing, coming from a rural place in Chesnee, to be able to come here.” She says Converse was “like a big family,” where “you had people you could go to at any time for guidance.” Professors at the small college were available at any time, and all knew her by name.
In addition to focusing on her English major and singing with the choir, Boyce worked both at the campus post office and the Chick-fil-A in Westgate Mall. As she recalled studying English, she asked me about my capstone (I am also majoring in English). We were both tasked with writing a 20+ page paper, but she also had to analyze a Gwendolyn Brooks poem in order to graduate. Boyce’s favorite book was Silas Marner by George Eliot.
In her senior year, she met James Boyce, who was her beloved husband of 30 years. While pastoring six different churches in those years, he helped her through law school at USC, and was “in her corner” when she began practicing law. They had three children, now adults with careers of their own. Family is her priority, and she smiles as she talks of seeing her siblings on Sundays at church and on holidays.
Though the law has taken Boyce in many directions, her main focus has always been family law. She said, “There is always somebody to save, and it’s a business you go into because you want to help.” Much of her work involves children and couples, so “these are concerns of the heart.” Boyce explains that “where somebody needs to lay their head at night, that’s important, to know it’s going to be a safe place.” She prays for guidance in her cases, because “there are always two perspectives to things.”
When I spoke with her, Boyce was preparing to do pro bono work on a TV program called “Ask A Lawyer”. She says “it’s a giving back thing.” Giving back is important to Boyce, who asked me to remind others that “it’s a privilege, a blessing to be able to come to Converse.” She urges us to give back to our school and community in whatever ways we can.
Boyce tries to see at least four Converse musical performances a year, and says the head of the School of Music invited her and the gospel choir back to perform “any time.” After the great fellowship and beauty of the Opening Convocation performance, she says that would indeed be “a blessing.”