SPARTANBURG, S.C. – On Friday, April 21, 2023, Converse University celebrated the investiture of its twelfth president, Boone J. Hopkins, on campus in Zimmerli Performance Center’s Twichell Auditorium. The inauguration ceremony, held on Converse’s traditional Founder’s Day, featured a processional including three past presidents of Converse, local and state leaders, and delegates from nearly 50 colleges and universities across the country.
Sandra Shearouse Morelli ’78, Chair of the Board of Trustees, opened the ceremony by formally welcoming a full house of guests and acknowledging the event as a significant moment in Converse’s history.
“I am truly excited about the university’s positive momentum and for what the future holds for our vibrant campus,” Morelli said of Converse’s future. “We have found a very special leader in Dr. Hopkins, who like those before him, brings the passion, vision, and commitment needed for this next chapter in Converse’s story.”
Past President Dr. Elizabeth Fleming, along with special guests The Honorable Max T. Hyde Jr., Representative of the Thirty-Second District of South Carolina, and The Honorable Jerome Rice, Mayor of the City of Spartanburg, provided welcoming remarks, all sharing their confidence in Dr. Hopkins’ leadership as well as acknowledging Converse’s crucial role in Spartanburg, the state of South Carolina, and beyond.
“For more than 130 years, Converse University has been an integral part of the success of Spartanburg,” Mayor Rice said. “Our people have been enormously enriched by both the presence of this wonderful institution and the marks its graduates have left on our city for generations.”
One of the most highly anticipated speakers was Hopkins’ mother, Dr. Marsha Roberts Hopkins. She provided endearing insight into the president’s early years, sharing that “life with Boone has never been boring,” and she reminded her son to always respect the honor of the opportunity ahead.
Also sharing congratulatory remarks were Margaret Moore, President of the Faculty Senate and Associate Professor of Physical Education at Converse; Lexi Stoneburner, Director of New Student Experiences and Transitions, and Staff Council Interim President; Samantha Nicholson Larkins ’12, Alumni Association Past President 2020-2022; and Student Government Association President Angela Brobson ’23.
The Converse Symphony Orchestra provided music for the ceremony. Professors Rick Mulkey, David Berry, and Scott Robbins shared commissioned artistic compositions in celebration of Dr. Hopkins’ inauguration. Professor Mulkey wrote a poem entitled “The Gardner” in anticipation of the event, and Professors Berry and Robbins used “The Gardener” as inspiration for their short piano pieces, titled “Flowering Trumpets” and “Life Toward Light,” respectively.
As the moment of investiture drew near, Morelli invited Dr. Hopkins to the stage, along with his wife, Dr. Chandra Owenby Hopkins (Dean of the Converse College for Women) and their two children, Owen and Jack. Provost Dr. Joe Wilferth presented Hopkins with the Converse medallion while Grand Marshal Dr. Patricia S. Foy, Professor of Music Education, presented Dr. Hopkins with the Converse Mace.
In his remarks, Hopkins acknowledged his friend, mentor, and “consummate champion of Converse,” Dr. Jeffrey H. Barker, the institution’s eleventh president, and he expressed gratitude for his family and colleagues. He spoke of carrying hope into future generations of Converse students, particularly on a day that celebrates Founder Dexter Edgar Converse.
“Converse has and will continue to deliver on our mission to educate students to be transformative leaders who can and will live boldly in our Founder’s Ideal: to see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly,” President Hopkins said. “Today, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the mission and vision of Converse – to learn and grow not only essential skills, intellectual depth, and knowledge, but compassion and empathy.”
The ceremony concluded with congratulatory words from Student Government Association President, Jasmyn Williams ’24, and the presentation of a gift from the student body. President of Religious Life Council Anna Patterson ’24 gave the benediction.
Following the ceremony, guests mingled and enjoyed lunch on the lawn. Later that evening, Converse students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered to “Paint the Town Purple” at a dance party in Hannah Gymnasium at the Weisiger Center. President Hopkins and Dean Chandra Owenby Hopkins made their grand entrance to sparks and applause before taking the dance floor to celebrate the next chapter in the University’s vibrant future.
About Boone J. Hopkins, Ph.D.
Boone J. Hopkins, Ph.D. was announced as the twelfth president of Converse on February 25, 2022, by the Converse University Board of Trustees. Dr. Hopkins has been a dedicated member of the Converse community since 2012.
Originally from Gainesville, Georgia, Dr. Hopkins is a proud Red Elephant from Gainesville High School. He experienced an innovative undergraduate liberal-arts education through a unique partnership between Brenau University, a historic women’s college, and Gainesville State College, a two-year state institution now known as the University of North Georgia. After completing a bachelor’s degree, Dr. Hopkins received his MFA in Directing and Acting Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University followed by a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from the University of Kansas. Dr. Hopkins moved to Spartanburg in 2012 to join Converse as an Assistant Professor of Theatre. In addition to directing plays and musicals at Converse including Legally Blonde: the Musical, Twelfth Night, Cabaret, The Wolves, and Godspell, Dr. Hopkins has served in numerous leadership capacities including: Chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance, Dean of the School of the Arts, Senior Associate Provost for Student Success, Interim Provost, and Interim President.
Dr. Hopkins delights in helping those with whom he collaborates reach new heights and achieve excellence. In parallel with his leadership work for Converse, Dr. Hopkins brings his love of empowering others and impacting his community for good through his work in Spartanburg on the Board of the Chapman Cultural Center, as a member of the Ten at the Top Board to support economic development in the Upstate, and as a member of the Integrated Planning Advisory Group for the Spartanburg Academic Movement. Dr. Hopkins is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and serves as an assistant basketball coach for the Advent Episcopal first and second grade teams. President Hopkins is married to Dr. Chandra Owenby Hopkins, Dean of Converse College for Women, and they have two children: Owen (9) and Jack (7).
About Converse University
Converse University empowers students to become transformative leaders who see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly. Converse was founded in 1889 by citizens of Spartanburg, SC, who aimed to create an educational experience for women, and in fall 2020 it welcomed its first undergraduate co-educational incoming class. The University encompasses the School of Humanities, Sciences, and Business; the School of the Arts; the School of Education and Graduate Studies; and the Converse College for Women. Converse students experience deep scholarship, transformative mentorship, experiential learning, and wonderful support for and belief in each other. Through this unique formula, Converse is a creator of opportunity for its students through a personalized education that also includes the professional and technical skills graduates need to be successful in their careers.
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