Converse Announces 2023 Alumni Achievement Award Winners
Each year at Reunion, Converse’s Alumni Association Board recognizes and celebrates outstanding alumni who demonstrate high levels of achievement and/or service in one or more of Converse’s Seven Core Values: Excellence, Integrity, Exploration, Diversity, Respect, Community, and Progress.
We celebrate all the accomplishments of our alumni. Converse graduates embody our Founder’s ideals and place the utmost value in the well-being of their respective families, communities, alma mater, passions, and professions.
Congratulations to our 2023 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients
The Distinguished Alumni Award (Undergraduate) is given to undergraduate alumni who deserve special recognition for their loyalty to Converse, outstanding achievements in their fields, and service to their communities.
The 2023 Recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient (Undergraduate) is Reverend Dr. P. Alice Rogers ’83.
Rev. Dr. P. Alice Rogers ’83 has served in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church for 38 years in a variety of church contexts: inner city, rural, suburban, small membership, and large congregations. For 11 years, she served on faculty at Candler School of Theology at Emory University as Associate Professor in the Practice of Practical Theology and Director of the Contextual Education and Teaching Parish Programs.
Alice’s teaching and research there culminated in two publications: “Equipping the Saints: Best Practices in Contextual Theological Education” (Pilgrim Press, 2010) and “Contextualizing Theological Education” (Pilgrim Press, 2008). During her tenure, she served as president of the Association of Theological Field Educators.
Following her appointment at Emory University, Alice served as the District Superintendent of the Northeast District of the North Georgia Conference and currently serves as the Director of Clergy Excellence.
She has represented the North Georgia Conference at the last six Jurisdictional and General Conferences of the United Methodist Church and serves on the United Methodist General Commission on Communications and on the North Georgia Conference Committee on Finance and Administration. For the last 20 years, she served on the Disciplinary Review Panel for the State Bar of Georgia.
The Distinguished Alumni Award (Graduate) is given to an alumna or alumnus of the Converse University Graduate Program, a private master’s university, in recognition of their outstanding contributions in their professional field and their passionate and service-oriented commitment to making a positive impact on our world.
The 2023 Recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient (Graduate) is Telena Monosso Woody ’14.
For more than 18 years, Dr. Telena Woody has served Spartanburg as an educator for Spartanburg School District 7. She currently serves as an assistant principal at Spartanburg High School. Next year, Telena will serve as the principal of McCracken Middle School.
Throughout her career, Telena has worked to mentor students and teachers, develop curriculum and instruction, and serve her community in any capacity possible.
The Community Service Award recognizes the alumna or alumnus who displays the qualities of a vibrant citizen through their active involvement in their community, church, and state.
The 2023 Recipient of the Community Service Award is Agnes Earle Wallace Williams ’57.
Agnes Earle Wallace Williams, originally from the Pauline/Glenn Springs area of Spartanburg County, was named for both of her parents, with the addition of an “e” to Earl, “to make it feminine,” as she has been told. Her family later moved closer to Spartanburg when her father’s health began to fail. At age 13, following her father’s death, Agnes and her mother moved near Converse, where she took piano and private voice lessons; she also sang in church choirs and her high school chorus. Agnes’ great-grandfather and Miss Gee’s father were brothers, and Agnes remembers attending family reunions when she was growing up.
After graduating high school, Agnes attended Converse and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree. Instead of teaching, she was offered a job with a United Way Research and Referral Group to develop a program of training for childcare providers so their programs could become licensed by the state. Throughout this time, she continued taking courses to further her knowledge. Many of her credentials and studies applied toward becoming a certified PC USA educator at the masters level, and she completed her final course at Erskine University.
Agnes served as an active member of Foothills Presbytery, serving on committees, and, after being ordained as an Elder, was elected Moderator of Foothills Presbytery. When her husband Jim’s health began to fail, the couple relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina, to be near their daughter and her family. Unfortunately, Jim passed away in April 2020. Agnes now resides at Carolina Bay Retirement Community in Wilmington, where she serves on committees, attends Presbyterian activities, and is happy to welcome visitors at any time.
The Career Achievement in Music Award recognizes the alumna or alumnus who has dedicated themselves to excellence in their profession in music and notable achievements credited over a continual period of time.
The 2023 Recipient of the Career Achievement in Music Award is Franklyn Noll Skidmore ’61.
In 1961, on graduation day, Franklyn Noll Skidmore asked John McCrae, her Converse voice teacher, “Should I go to Juilliard now?” and he responded, “You’ve got your voice performance degree; get out there and sing!” So she set off to New York City. A Converse Board member arranged an audition with Metropolitan Opera star Jan Peerce, who encouraged and guided her early studies in New York. Those studies continued with a number of prestigious coaches, including Carolina Segura, Samuel Sanders and Ryan Edwards, Guido DeNuzio of the Met, and Benjamin Rawitz at the La Monnaie Opera House in Brussels.
Franklyn has been the recipient of many honors: a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions, The Liederkranz Opera Award, The National Arts Club Award, and recognition by the Poulenc Foundation in Paris. She has appeared in operas and concerts at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the National Gallery, the Smithsonian, Le Capitole in Toulouse, and Le Cirque Royal in Brussels. She was featured on radio and television shows in New York, PBS in North Carolina, as well as in Belgium, where she lived for six years with her husband, Rodger, and their two children, Andrew and Chambliss.
Franklyn returned to the U.S., performing and teaching in Atlanta and then in Sarasota, Florida, performing in outreach programs for the Sarasota Opera, acting as an adjudicator for the Apprentice Opera Awards. She says her most exotic performing venue was singing for the Chief of The Figians in the South Pacific. Always a voice teacher with many successful students, as well as being an adjudicator for the National Association for Teachers of Singing, she has been associated with many groups offering scholarships for young emerging musicians. Continuing Franklyn’s musical legacy, her daughter, Chambliss, studied at Converse on a voice scholarship and sang opera in Austria on a summer program.
In 1997, a Lenoir High School Band reunion renewed Franklyn’s passion as a former first chair clarinet. She got out her old clarinet, took a few lessons from the principal clarinetist of the Atlanta Symphony, and has been playing clarinet ever since. She currently participates in two concert bands, two orchestras, and several chamber groups.In Sarasota, Franklyn plays tennis three times a week. She loves kayaking and playing piano and clarinet in practice, rehearsal and performance, and sharing a rich life with Rodger and her family.
The Mae Elizabeth Kilgo Spirit of Converse Award is given to an alumna or alumnus who, by their constant and loyal service to Converse University, has kept the institution visible to other alumni and their community.
The 2023 Recipient of the Mae Elizabeth Kilgo Spirit of Converse Award is Dr. Keshia Jackson Gilliam ’05.
Dr. Keshia Jackson Gilliam is the Director of the online Master in Management (MiM), the Professional Leadership Program (PLP) and the Doctorate in Professional Leadership Program at Converse University. Her teaching pedagogy focuses on engaging dialogue that infuses real-world perspectives on motivation, personal/professional development, employee relations, team collaboration, organization partnerships, community networking, and authentic leadership.
Between 2017 and 2021, Keshia served as the Human Resources Director at Converse, including serving as Title IX Coordinator, HIPAA Compliance Officer, Benefits Administrator, Retirement Plan Sponsor, Employee Relations Manager, Unity in Diversity Coordinator, Risk Management Representative, President’s Cabinet and Direct Report. She has more than 30 years of professional human resources, leadership, and management experience while serving in various industries, including hospitality, non-profit, retail, corporate sales, higher education, and K-12. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), CUPA-HR, Spartanburg (SHRA), and the Greenville Human Resource Association (GHRA). Although she has transitioned to a faculty role at Converse, she still serves as Converse University’s Human Resources Consultant.
Keshia is a first-generation college student. She began her education at Spartanburg Technical College, where she double majored and earned an Associate Degree in Business – Hospitality, Marketing. She later transferred to Converse University, earning her Bachelor of Arts – Human Relations in 2005. She is a proud Red Devil and Converse II alumna. Additionally, from 2002-2004 she worked at Converse University in admissions and was the cheerleading coach.
Despite industry requirements for a bachelor’s degree only, Keshia’s personal goal led her to complete a Master’s in Human Resource Development and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership. She advocates for higher education and encourages anyone interested in pursuing their educational dreams to have perseverance, and it will come to fruition. Her passion is to lead and serve authentically. As an alumna, she sees the value of connecting the community with the mission and vision of Converse.
Although she was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Keshia is a Spartanburg native and Spartanburg High School alumna. She is married to Steven Gilliam of SLG Trucking, LLC, and has one daughter, Lindsay, and two bonus sons, Stephan and Steven. She enjoys spending time with family as it is of the utmost importance.
The Young Alumni Award is given to an alumna or alumnus (within 15 years of graduation) who embodies the qualities of character and achievement that Converse alumni hold as their ideal.
The 2023 Recipient of the Young Alumni Award is Amy Grace Peele Donahue ’12.
Amy Grace Peele Donohue lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and three young children – a son and twin daughters. Amy Grace has a Master of Public Policy with an emphasis in national security from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. She is currently a Senior Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General. She leads evaluations to improve the effectiveness of ongoing and future DoD operations and activities.
Amy Grace has years of research, program evaluation, and project management experience supporting the DoD as a public servant and from the private sector. She has previously worked on four Congressionally-mandated blue ribbon panels reviewing Air Force force structure, Army force structure, DoD efforts to address adult sexual assault, and military aviation safety.
She has also worked in support of DoD projects at the RAND Corporation and Deloitte Consulting. During her years working at RAND, she conducted qualitative and mixed methods research resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications. Amy Grace’s career has allowed her to serve the public interest, explore a wide range of defense and national security areas, and travel to interesting places around the country and world.
The Career Achievement Award recognizes an alumna or alumnus who has dedicated themselves to excellence in their profession and has distinguished themselves by notable achievements credited over a continual period of time.
The 2023 Recipient of the Career Achievement Award is Joey Murphy Fowler ’97.
Joey Murphy Fowler began her career in IT in 1997 and joined the Denny’s team as a Lead Software Engineer in 2000; she now serves Denny’s Corporation as Senior Director Technical Services. During her 23 years with Denny’s, Joey has been very successful, despite the challenges she has faced as a diverse female in a traditionally male dominated field. She is the first African American female Director in IT at Denny’s.
Joey serves on several boards and committees in the Upstate area, including United Way of the Piedmont Board of Directors, African American Leadership Society, Women United of Spartanburg, Denny’s African American Leadership Group and Women’s Leadership Group. She started a Girls Who Code group with Carver Middle School and serves as the facilitator for the 2023-2024 school year.
Joey was the recipient of the 2021 United Way of Piedmont Tomeka Pierce African American Leadership Society Award and the 2023 Women in Food Service Forum (WFF) Change Maker Award. Joey received her B.S. from Converse University with a concentration in Accounting and her MBA in Information Management from the University of Phoenix. In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her friends and family, especially her husband, Terry, and three daughters, Autumn, Tyra, and Sydney.
The Converse 100 Award, first presented during Converse’s Centennial Celebration, is given to a representative alumna or alumnus who clearly embodies the qualities of character and achievement that Converse alumni hold as their ideal.
The 2023 Recipient of the Converse 100 Award is Natalie Gilmore ’17.
Natalie Gilmore is from Valencia, California and graduated from Converse College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. While at Converse, Natalie played four years with the women’s soccer team and was a part of the school’s first-ever conference championship team in 2014. Natalie was named to the Dean’s List and Conference Carolinas Presidential Honor Roll from 2014-2017 and was selected as Defensive Player of the Year by her coaches in 2016. Following her time at Converse, Natalie moved back to Southern California, where she completed her Masters in Athletic Administration from Concordia University Irvine.
Natalie currently works as Communications Manager for SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. In this role, Natalie focuses on corporate communications strategies and efforts across Hollywood Park’s 300-acre campus, as well as venue public relations for all sporting events hosted on-site, including SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Super Bowl LVI Champion Los Angeles Rams, and YouTube Theater.
Additionally, Natalie works in communications for the LA Bowl, an annual collegiate football bowl game held at SoFi Stadium, and is responsible for game day media relations and year-long communication strategies around the bowl game. Before joining SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, Natalie worked in Public Relations for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.
The Honorary Alumni Award is bestowed by the Alumni Board to a person who has given time, effort, and love to Converse. By virtue of this award, this individual is considered an alumna or alumnus of Converse. This year Converse has awarded two individuals with this honor.
Dr. Spencer Mathews is the 2023 recipient of the Honorary Alumnus Award.
Dr. Spence Mathews joined the Converse faculty in January 1967, and he taught until his retirement in August 2004, with the exception of time spent completing post-doctoral leave at Florida State University during the summer of 1968 and a six-month sabbatical leave at UCLA in 1996. During his tenure at Converse, Spence served as department chair from 1974 through 1999. He served the South Carolina Psychological Association for one year each as Secretary then as President, and he served for several years as a member of the Spartanburg Regional Hospital Institutional Review Board. From 1982 to 1991, he was Converse’s Athletic Director.
He says that teaching at Converse was “as rewarding a life as I could have hoped for.” Upon his retirement, he realized that he had benefited from help from practically everyone with whom I shared that time in his life, including colleagues from the Music School to the Arts; from the Sciences to the Physical Education faculty; from the administration to the maintenance staff to Campus Security and to the custodial staff, upon whose graces he says, “I found myself repeated obliged to impose.”
Spence says he also incurred several debts to his students, coming to that recognition late in his career. “It pleased me upon my retirement to acknowledge those debts,” he says, “and it pleases me on this occasion to be able to express my gratitude again.”
Dr. John Theilmann is the 2023 recipient of the Honorary Alumnus Award.
Andrew Helmus Distinguished Professor of History and Politics John Theilmann came to Converse in fall 1985 after teaching at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Since then, he has taught more courses in history and political science than he can count, worked with several students on research projects, and even sat in on several SGA budget hearings and honor board deliberations. He has also hiked with some students and drank beer with others. Along the way, he has found time to publish a book in political science and one in medical history, as well as six book chapters and several articles.
John is dedicated to the idea that students and faculty engage in joint learning, and he puts that belief into practice by mentoring student research projects. He and his students regularly present papers at scholarly conferences, including the Southeastern Medieval Association, the Southern Association for the History of Medicine, and the International Congress for Medieval Studies.
He is on the editorial board of Journal of Political Science, the journal of the South Carolina Political Science Association, and he has been a political consultant and campaign manager. He is an active leader in institutional assessment activities and has participated on many Southern Association for Colleges and Schools accrediting teams which evaluate the effectiveness of colleges and universities in the South.