The Converse campus community gathered in Twichell Auditorium at the Zimmerli Performance Center for the annual Founder’s Day celebration on April 22, 2022.
Newly appointed President Boone Hopkins’ joyous energy was palpable as he took the stage to honor our Founder’s Ideal to ‘see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly’, and to celebrate the Class of 2022.
President Hopkins took us all the way back to 1888, when 12 citizens of Spartanburg, including Dexter Edgar Converse, gathered to discuss and debate the idea of founding a new college for women. Hopkins spoke about this ambitious goal, and despite coming from different walks of life, all 12 citizens in attendance committed their support to this endeavor.
Dexter Edgar Converse later wrote, “I desire that the instruction and influence of Converse College be always such that the students may be enabled to see clearly, decide wisely, and to act justly.”
President Hopkins said he wholeheartedly supports the boldness of this goal. “We often, rightly, focus on the educational imperative in this Ideal, to empower our students to see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly,” President Hopkins said. “I am struck by the appeal Mr. Converse makes to us all to lead with our values.”
“The demographics may have changed, but the mission has not.”Angela Brobson ’23
Student Body President Angela Brobson ’23 welcomed the Converse community and spoke of her appreciation for Dexter Edgar Converse for creating an educational community that we can rely on, and one that is steeped in rich history. Converse graduates have gone on to become major generals, opera singers, poets, scientists, professors, creators — the list is endless.
Brobson said, “Founder’s Day is all about coming back to our roots, celebrating when Dexter Edgar Converse established Converse College, now University, where students can grow and be everything they dared to be. The demographics may have changed, but the mission has not.”
See the day in photos:
Dexter Edgar Converse Award
Marsha H. Gibbs is the recipient of the 2022 Dexter Edgar Converse Award, the highest award bestowed by Converse. Gibbs has been a steadfast supporter of Converse and its students, serving a total of 16 years on the Board of Trustees (1999-2007, 2008-2016, and 2017-2021). She is an instrumental leader in the Upstate community; both she and her husband have impacted countless lives through their business and philanthropic endeavors.
Named for Dexter Edgar Converse, the founder and first major benefactor of the University that bears his name, the award honors those who continue the commitment to the Founder’s Ideal.
Watch the 2022 Founder’s Day Ceremony:
The Weisiger Cup
Emma Reid ’22 was recognized as the 2021-2022 recipient of the Weisiger Cup. The Weisiger Cup honors outstanding student-athletes who exhibit Converse’s priorities of academic excellence, student leadership and service, and competitive intercollegiate athletics.
Emma, an Accounting major, has served as the President of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Captain of the Valkyries golf team, and often a “Top 5” golfer throughout her four years at Converse. Emma was one of only ten students selected across the United States for an internship with Ford Motor Company, and she has accepted a full-time position with them upon graduation.
Reid’s name will be added to the sterling silver trophy that is permanently housed in the Weisiger Center at The Sally Abney Rose Physical Activity Complex.
The Weisiger Cup and Weisiger Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Awards were established by Mrs. Agnes Binder Weisiger ’63 and her husband Ed Weisiger in 2009. The awards are made possible through a $1 million endowment gift to advance Converse’s commitments in science and to build an athletic program that prioritizes academic excellence.
The Kathryne Amelia Brown Award
Dr. Angela Elder, Associate Professor of History, is the recipient of the Kathryne Amelia Brown Award, Converse’s recognition of teaching excellence. In 2018, students awarded Dr. Elder the Faculty Involvement and Collaboration Award in recognition of her commitment to the core values of Converse. In 2019, she received the Joe Ann Lever Award of Excellence, and in 2021 she was honored with the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Teaching Excellence Award.
A student said, “Dr. Elder is the perfect example of an educator. Her teaching style is passionate, accommodating, and inclusive. I have watched my peers in her classes truly blossom into critical thinkers and passionate historians.”
The Kathryne Amelia Brown Award was established at Converse by the late Mr. and Mrs. James Douglas Brown of Ozark, Alabama in memory of their daughter, a member of the class of 1970.
Spirit of Converse Award
The Spirit of Converse Award was presented to Vice President of Operations and Strategic Planning, Kristin Lacey. Recipients of the award are selected because they serve as an example for the community through their commitment and contributions to Converse, support of colleagues, team spirit, cooperation, enthusiasm, and loyalty.
Lacey, who joined Converse in 2020, is described as “always going above and beyond in her efforts to provide necessary equipment and training for our facilities, campus safety and campus technology teams.”
Lacey guided the Converse campus through the many challenges of the pandemic, ensuring our COVID response met the needs of the entire campus. Her leadership was critical to the health and wellness of our entire campus community.
The Spirit of Converse Award, one of the University’s most distinctive honors, is presented annually to an employee who embodies the core values of the University and positively impacts the Converse community through professional and personal contributions.
2022 Keynote Address
The 2022 Founder’s Day Celebration keynote address was presented by Dr. Melissa Walker, George Dean Johnson, Jr. Professor of History Emerita.
While teaching at Converse, Dr. Walker received the Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for Outstanding Teaching, the O’Herron Award for Faculty Excellence, the Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award, and the Joe Ann Lever Award. The Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education named Dr. Walker the South Carolina Professor of the Year in 2007.
Dr. Walker spoke to a theme that many of us could relate to —reorienting ourselves after significant life changes. She spoke about the importance of looking to the past for wisdom to guide future choices.
“History is marked by alternating periods of relative stability and very rapid change.Dr. Melissa Walker
Dr. Walker remarked, “To say that we’ve been forced to navigate some changes in the past two years is an understatement.” Dr. Walker referred to not only changes Converse has faced, including the loss of Interim President Jeffrey Barker in 2021 and the model change in 2020, but also challenges in the world from racial injustices to the war in Ukraine, to the pandemic.
She reminded us that “History is marked by alternating periods of relative stability and very rapid change. Those periods force us to rethink everything we believe about ourselves, about the institutions we value, and about what matters in the world.
You can listen to Dr. Walker’s keynote address at the 41-minute mark on the YouTube video of 2022 Founder’s Day.
Reverend Eliza Smith ended the service with a Benediction, where she reminded us that we all have a purpose and that each of us is a piece of a shared mission in unity. She said, “May we all take up our part in bettering our campus, our community and our world.”
As is tradition, immediately following the ceremony, the Converse community met on Johnson Plaza for lunch and Dexter Edgar Converse’s favorite dessert, strawberries and cream.