Converse College is a private liberal arts college. Despite being primarily a residential college for female undergraduates, it also offers pre-college, graduate and adult education programs. The degrees are offered in language and literature, humanities, fine arts, natural and social sciences as well as music, interior design, business and education.
In the 1880s and 1890s, the establishment of textile mills reputed Spartanburg SC as a textile center. Concerns over the deficiency in the existence of education opportunities for young ladies were raised by some citizens, even as Spartanburg continued to excel. An attempt was made to address the concerns, and Spartanburg female college was established in 1855 but later closed in 1872 as it did not do well. The tries did not stop there.
The idea of establishing a female college was brought up again in 1889. A meeting of thirteen prominent Spartanburg people that included owners of local businesses was led by a lawyer, Henry Edmund Ravenel. In that meeting, a decision to fund raise for the purpose of establishing the college was made. Dexter Edgar Converse made the highest contribution, and as a result, the college was named Converse, in his honor.
The college opened its doors on the 1st of October 1890 with a total of 168 students. Mr Converse headed the first board which consisted mainly of Spartanburg citizens and they elected Rev. Benjamin F. Wilson as the first president. Sadly, in 1892 the college’s main building got destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt and enlarged straightaway. Meanwhile, three cottages were constructed so as to accommodate students awaiting the completion of the main building. Upon completion, the main hall was named Wilson Hall for the first president. A lot of social clubs and sororities were also formed then, although sororities were later banned in the 1930s. Twichell Auditorium was also opened in 1898 and has served both the educational programs of the institution and the cultural and civil organization of the region. Twichell Auditorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There was an immense expansion from the 1900s characterized by the erection of buildings such as the Carnegie Library and Cleveland House both done in 1905 and Judd Science Hall done in 1915. And as the requirement for a new bigger library arose, Gwathmey Library was built in 1951 and named after president Gwathmey upon his retirement. In 1980, an additional library, Mikel Library, was built and named after Buck and Minor Mikel who were the major donors of that venture. Additionally, the Mikel family gave a grant to the college in the mid-1990s which was used to establish the Converse Archives and Special Collections.
The 1900s also saw the institution establish itself as a reputable women college with efforts made to elevate academic standards. In 1964, the college introduced a graduate program which is currently the School of Education and Graduate studies. The Petrie school of music also got a state rating as a certified school of music at around that time. Converse II was also introduced in 1983 to suit adult women’s schedule and ambitions.
2003 witnessed the completion of a very fruitful funds campaign that led to the Nisbet Honors Program formation, the endowment of the Chapman Study Abroad Experience and faculty initiatives funding benefaction, among other projects. In 2016, Converse became the first women’s college to attain the All-Steinway distinction. The institution joined the University Center in Greenville in a bid to enlarge its reach in 2018, and in 2019 declared its new position as a doctoral degree-granting institution. In 2020, Converse expanded its undergraduate residential program to co-educational from single-gender. And beginning in July 2021, the name will be changed to Converse University.
The drive still continues as the college focuses on providing a distinctive educational experience that remains necessary for the success of students in the ever-changing world. However, it emerges that there is a need to make real partnerships between Converse and its neighboring colleges as well as Spartanburg SC local businesses. This could aid in the development of Spartanburg as a whole, considering the numerous things that can be done through such partnerships.
Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg SC.