On Thursday, January 26, 2023, the Converse community gathered together in Dalton Lobby in Wilson Hall to celebrate the life, honor the legacy, and reveal the presidential portrait of Dr. Jeffrey H. Barker.
Dr. Barker served the Converse community for 20 years, first as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and then as Provost. He also served as Converse’s Chief Academic and Student Life Officer, SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, and a Professor of Philosophy. When the opportunity arose, Dr. Barker accepted the position of President of Converse University on July 6, 2021, becoming the institution’s 11th President. The Converse community was stunned when Dr. Barker unexpectedly passed away in a bicycle accident on July 21, 2021 in Spartanburg. Since then, the Converse community has continued to miss his calm demeanor, dry wit, and dedication to the university.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and community members gathered together in Wilson Hall on Thursday evening to reminisce on Dr. Barker’s impact on Converse. The evening began with a welcome from Sandra Shearouse Morelli ’78, Chair, Board of Trustees, and then guests were invited to a tree dedication ceremony on the right side of front campus in the brisk evening glow, with the campus pathways lined with luminaries.
Dr. Erin Templeton delivered a heartfelt dedication, relating Dr. Barker’s impact on her personally and his guiding influence on the entire campus community. The tree was intentionally dedicated on the right side of the front campus at intersecting brick pathways leading to Wilson Hall, Carmichael Hall, Mickel Library, and Dexter Hall, because of Dr. Barker’s commitment to academic excellence (Mickel Library), his office location on campus (Carmichael Hall), his impact on student life (Dexter Hall), and his election as university president (Wilson Hall).
Once guests were again gathered in Dalton Lobby, Petrie School of Music professors, Dr. Kelly Vaneman, oboe, and Professor Steven Graff, piano, filled the lobby with a beautiful musical tribute followed by remarks from Rhonda Mingo, Dean of Students. Two musical pieces played by Professor Courtney LeBauer on violin with Professor Steven Graff accompanying followed. Dr. Scott Robbins, Professor of Musicology and Composition, then gave remarks before welcoming students to the front for a rock dedication of “Crawling Back to You” by Tom Petty.
Finally, Dr. Boone Hopkins, President of Converse University, posthumously awarded Dr. Jeffrey H. Barker with the Dexter Edgar Converse Award, the highest award bestowed by the university, and Dr. Barker’s wife, Ms. Jan Barker, emotionally received the award. Dr. Barker’s Presidential portrait was unveiled from behind a satin sheet by Dr. Hopkins and Sandra Shearouse Morelli, and the whole room stood, clapped, and cheered while taking in the portrait.
Dr. Barker’s legacy at Converse will continue to live on through the people he impacted and through his portrait that will reside in Wilson Hall for years to come as a beloved reminder of our former President, colleague, friend, and devoted Converse supporter.
View photos from the event: