During their four years at Converse, the Class of 2021 overcame many challenges completing coursework during a global pandemic. They fervently pursued passions, attained academic excellence, and grew as individuals who now stand ready to pursue professions and build up communities.
Converse held this year’s commencement ceremony on May 23 in the Spartanburg High School outdoor stadium for our undergraduate and graduate students. Mary Whyte, the award-winning and globally renowned artist and author, delivered the keynote address, inspiring the next generation of Converse graduates while displaying a select few of her watercolor pieces on the jumbotron in the stadium.
In her address, Whyte commended the graduates on navigating a year filled with isolation, financial difficulties and constant changes, caused by the pandemic. She encouraged all the attendees to be true to themselves and to pursue a life “directed by strengths”.
Whyte said, “For artists, knowing who you are is absolutely essential to the key to creating work that is original and that will be remembered. Surprisingly some artists don’t know who they are and what they want to paint. So they spend their life painting other people’s paintings. You might be tempted to copy someone else’s life because you admire their popularity…If you pursue a life that is guided by knowing who you are instead of following the path of others, success will follow.”
“When I was true to myself is when my work began to stand out in the crowd.” – Mary Whyte
Following the keynote address, Aliyah Hancock, President of the Class of 2021, applauded the class of 2021 for handling the many changes and challenges over the past four years with grace and spirit. Hancock said that though it is bittersweet that this is the last class to graduate as “Converse College”, she is certain Converse University will exceed expectations. She announced the gift from the Class of 2021 was to replenish the Converse Food Pantry, as a way to give back to their fellow students.
A Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Therapy was awarded posthumously to Jordan Amari Johnson ‘21, and was accepted by her parents, Adriane M. and Ben Johnson III. Converse honored her memory with a moment of silence followed by a traditional Celtic solo “The Parting Glass” sung by Courtney Dziewior ’21, mezzo-soprano.
Watch the keynote address and ceremony:
A total of 201 Bachelor’s degrees and 135 Master’s degrees were awarded to the 2021 graduates. The Class of 2021 isn’t missing a beat. Many of our seniors plan to pursue postgraduate study in some of the world’s most prestigious programs. Our seniors have been accepted to graduate schools as close as Spartanburg and as far away as Hong Kong. Read more about which graduate schools have accepted Converse alumni.
About the Class of 2021 Undergraduate Students:
- 34% are first-generation college students
- 22% are student-athletes
- 7 students earned two undergraduate degrees
- 24 students earned a degree with multiple majors
- 25 are Converse International School students
- 17 are Converse II students
- 16% participated in a study-travel program traveling to other countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and Ireland
- 38% participated in service opportunities on and off campus
- 75% were involved in leadership roles on campus
- 49% held an internship while at Converse
- 58% have already accepted full-time employment or accepted into their choice of graduate programs.
About the Class of 2021 Graduate Students
- 7 graduated with an Education Specialist degree EdS: 7 (3 in Administration and Supervision; 4 in Literacy)
- 31 received a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree (14 in in Early Childhood and Elementary Education; 8 in Special Education; 5 in middle level education; 3 in secondary education; 1 in Art Education)
- 30 received a Masters in Education (4 in Gifted and Talented Education; 5 in Art Education; 4 in Language Arts; 1 in Special Education; 2 in Elementary Education; 2 in Administration and Supervision; 12 in Advanced Studies)
- 9 received a Masters in Fine Arts (6 in creative writing; 1 in poetry; 1 in non-fiction; 1 In Young Adult Fiction)
- 4 received a Masters of Liberal Arts degree (2 in English; 2 in Political Science)
- 3 received a Masters in Management in Healthcare
- 4 received a Masters in Music
- 22 received a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy
- 6 Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy students are University Center of Greenville campus graduates and also the first cohort to work at the EMERGE – University Center clinic. Together, they completed a total of 2,011 therapy sessions. 646 sessions were completed via telehealth in response to the global pandemic.
See photo highlights from the 2021 Commencement
Here are some of the amazing things our Class of 2021 students accomplished at Converse, as they prepared to take on the world:
- Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy student, Timmy Phillips ‘21 has been accepted to Texas Tech where he will pursue hia Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Timmy also won this year’s Marriage and Family Therapy Award.
- Isabel Fangman ’21 (Nisbet Honors) and John Theilmann presented their paper, “Dung in the Streets and the Cellars: The Public Health Response in Late Medieval England,” at the Southern Association for the History of Medicine conference.
- Laura Mayne’s ’21 screen-print Covered was included in the “100 Miles II” exhibition at the Bascom Center’s Bunzl Gallery in Highlands, North Carolina.
- Sarah Murphy ’21 had her senior project work available for viewing in Las Laguna Art Gallery’s “Women in Art” online exhibition, based out of Laguna Beach, California.
- Yuan Fan ’21 was accepted to present a research paper on metaphilosophy and happiness at the Upstate Research Symposium.
- Abigail Jolley ’21 (Nisbet Honors) gave a talk at the American Chemical Society Spring meeting. Her presentation was titled “Development of an adaptable xerogel-based amperometric biosensor template for xanthine and cholesterol detection.” Abbey begins a new job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after graduation, working with virus cell lines.
- Kimberly Leone ’21 (Nisbet Honors) accepted a job offer of Operational Intelligence Analyst at Mailprotector in Greenville, South Carolina.
- Damaris Vega ’21 and Moriah Gomez ’21 presented their research entitled “Monilophytes and Lycophytes of Three Natural Areas in Spartanburg County, South Carolina,” at the virtual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, and the Southern Districts of Tri-Beta, the biology honors society, held in March.
This year we bestowed special distinctions to individuals in the Converse community who have dedicated their time and efforts to not just Converse, but the community as a whole.
Mary Mildred Sullivan Award
The recipient of the 2021 Mary Mildred Sullivan Award is Pastor Nannie Jefferies. Converse presents the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award to a member of the greater Spartanburg community, recognizing unselfish service, dedication to sharing with others, and humane participation in the life of her community. The service of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award recipient is an example to all of us at Converse, one to whom we look for inspiration.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award
Dr. Kirk H. Neely was the recipient of the 2021 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. Established in 1925 in memory of Mr. Sullivan, a Southerner who became a prominent lawyer, businessman, and philanthropist in New York in the late nineteenth century, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award is a humanitarian award meant to recognize those who have selflessly given to others or served others in some way.
Elford C. Morgan Award
Madison Rae Ocrcurto ’21 (Nisbet Honors) is the 2021 recipient of the Elford C. Morgan Award. Named for Elford C. Morgan, who served Converse from 1932 to 1959 as a professor of English and dean of administration, the award is given to a senior with the highest academic record majoring in the traditional arts and sciences.
Pi Kappa Lambda Award
This year’s recipient was Courtney Shea Dziewior ’21 (Nisbet Honors). The Pi Kappa Lambda Award recognizes the graduating senior with the highest grade point average in the Petrie School of Music Chapter of this national music honor society.
We wish our 2021 graduates all the best as they take on the world!