A lifetime of learning

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Most parents attend their children’s graduation, but few sit beside them wearing a cap and gown. But so it was in 1961 that Ann Hall née Loftis ’61 sat beside her mother Irene Dill Loftis ’61 as part of the first Furman class to graduate in McAlister Auditorium. Irene, who is now 105, still lives in South Carolina, and though age has weakened her body, her mind still fervently possesses a love of learning.

When Irene graduated with her daughter, it was the second time she had attended Greenville’s Women’s College, which merged with Furman beginning in 1932. Irene was 18 when she entered the Women’s College, but after two years she left to marry Harvey Loftis ’29 and start a family. But her desire for an education led her return to Furman in the late 1950s to earn her diploma. After graduating with Ann, Irene went on to complete a Masters of Library Science from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She then worked as a librarian at Baker’s Chapel Elementary School in Greenville County until she retired in 1975.

Ann recalls that her mother enjoyed reading encyclopedias, always on a quest for knowledge. But most of all, Irene cherished books. “She liked all kinds of books, but she loved the romantic poets.” Irene even wrote her own poetry and had her work published in the The Isaqueena, the Literary Magazine of the Women’s College. More recently, at the age of 90, Irene entered a poetry competition and won an award.Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.05.20 AM

It seems that a love of learning runs in the Loftis family. “I come from a family of educators. . . ,” Ann says. Her father was a principal, her son is a teacher, and Ann worked as an elementary teacher before becoming principal of M. S. Bailey and Clinton Elementary Schools in Clinton, S.C. Ann also has two brothers who were teachers.

Although her mother Irene is not always communicative, she is spirited and still loves words. “I started reciting nursery rhymes to her, and her eyes would light up and she’d finish the phrase,” Ann says as she recalls singing “Jack and Jill.” Since then, Irene not only completes the phrases her daughter sings, but she composes endings that communicate her memories, such as “Jack and Jill went up the hill to go to Tigerville,” which is the town near Travelers Rest where she grew up.

“She has an incredible will to live; when she was 102 she was at her lowest with a bout of pneumonia, but she recovered and she’s happy.” Irene Loftis will be 106 on Christmas Day.



Romantic Song (Published in the National Poetry Awards in 1964)

by Irene Loftis


“Lilies for a bridal bed

Roses for a matron’s head

Violets for a maiden dead” – P.B. Shelley


“Violets for a maiden dead,”

Plant them thick, and at the head

Set lilies pale on grey-green stems.

These shall be her requiems.


She will not know – who died so young

By lover scorned – unknown, unsung.


But violets thick, with greenery laced,

Will mark her grave with purple grace.

And lilies pale on grey-green stems,

Shall show for aye, her love for him.


President Davis to speak on “What Really Matters Nov. 17

Furman University president Elizabeth Davis will speak on “What Really Matters?” Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in Furman’s Daniel Chapel.

Dr. Elizabeth Davis

Dr. Elizabeth Davis

Her talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Furman’s Chaplains Office and is part of the L.D. Johnson Lecture Series.

Davis became Furman’s 12th President on July 1, 2014.  She is a member of the Council of Presidents, a national advisory group of college and university chief executives, and she was recently named to Greenville Business Magazine’s “50 Most Influential People.”

She serves on the Board of Directors of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, and is an honorary member of the Board of Governors of the Commerce Club.  She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Comstock Resources, Inc., an energy company based in Texas.

L.D. Johnson served as university chaplain and professor of religion at Furman.

L.D. Johnson served as university chaplain and professor of religion at Furman.

Before coming to Furman, Davis spent 22 years at Baylor University in Texas, where she rose to the position of Executive Vice President and Provost.  In addition to being a member of the accounting faculty at Baylor, she also served as Vice Provost for Financial and Academic Administration, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Business Programs, and Acting Chair of the Department of Accounting and Business Law.

Davis received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baylor in 1984 and earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1992.

The L.D. Johnson Memorial Lecture Series honors the memory of the late L.D. Johnson, who served as chaplain and professor of religion at Furman for nearly 15 years before his death in 1981. He was also pastor of First Baptist Church of Greenville.

For more information, call the Furman Chaplains’ Office at (864) 294-2133.

Lyric Theatre presents opera scenes recital Nov. 17

Grant Knox faculty, large low res, sized

Dr. Grant Knox

Furman University Lyric Theatre will present an opera scenes recital Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall on the Furman campus.

The recital, “Innocent Merriment: A celebration of operetta,” is free and open to the public and is presented by the Furman University Music Department.

The performance is directed by Furman Assistant Professor of Voice and Director of Lyric Theatre Dr. Grant Knox.

Twenty-two students in Grant’s opera workshop class will perform various scenes from the operetta repertoire. Featured composers include Arthur Sullivan, Jacques Offenbach, Otto Nicolai, Johann Strauss II, Sigmund Romberg, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern. All scenes will be performed in English.

Furman faculty member David Gross is musical coach and pianist. Furman senior Abigail Hart is assistant director.

For more information about the recital, call the Furman Music Office at (864) 294-2086.

About Grant Knox

Knox joined the Furman music faculty in 2013. An American tenor, Knox enjoys a varied career in opera, musical theater, concert and recital. He has appeared with the Cincinnati Opera, Atlanta Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, and Chautauqua Opera, among others. Equally versed in concert repertoire, Knox has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic, Cobb Symphony, Binghamton Philharmonic, and others, and has appeared in recital at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

As a recording artist, Knox can be heard on the complete cast recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Grand Duke” and “The Sorcerer,” Offenbach’s “The Brigands,” Romberg’s “Maytime,” and Kalman’s “The Carnival Fairy,” all released on the Albany Records label.

Knox holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and a doctorate from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.

Education professors collaborate on new book

democracy and decency cover, sizedFurman University Education Professors Michael Svec and Paul Thomas have collaborated on a new book, Democracy and Decency: What Does Education Have to Do With It? (Information Age Publishing).

Svec was one of 20 international scholars selected to contribute a chapter to the book. Thomas co-edited the book with Paul Carr, Julie Gorlewski and Brad Porfilio, the latest volume in the series, Critical Constructions: Studies on Education and Society.

Democracy and Decency advances the notion of decency in relation to democracy and is underpinned by an analysis of meaningful, critically-engaged education. It addresses questions such as, how can we teach for and about democracy to alter and transform the essence of what democracy is, and, importantly, what it should be? If democracy is intended to be a legitimating force for good, how does education inform democracy?

Svec’s chapter, “Democracy and Decency Supporting Science Teaching,” discusses ways that the science classroom culture can be redefined to not only model the nature of science through instruction but also to model democratic principles.

Svec was an assistant professor of education at Rockhurst College in Kansas City before joining the Furman faculty in 1998. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Illinois-Urbana and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction (secondary science) from Indiana University-Bloomington. Svec previously served as a Fulbright Scholar in the Czech Republic teaching science education courses at Ostrava and Palacky Universities in 2005.

Before joining the Furman faculty in 2002, Thomas taught high school English in rural South Carolina. He earned undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in education from the University of South Carolina.

He was the 2013 recipient of the George Orwell Award presented by National Council of Teachers of English. A collection of essays that he co-edited, De-Testing and De-Grading Schools, was named an Outstanding Academic 2014 title by Choice magazine.

He is a column editor for the English Journal, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English and has written commentaries for the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Education Week, The State, and The Greenville News.

Read Thomas’ blog at https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com, and visit the publisher’s book site at www.infoagepub.com.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at (864) 294-3107.


Community, Coats and Cops

neil jamerson2, croppedWhen headlines report what seems like daily clashes between police and the public, it’s refreshing to see a whole other side of law enforcement that may not make the nightly news. For their Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) project, Furman’s Assistant VP for Student Development Neil Jamerson teamed with Greenville County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt. Ty Miller, and other members of the DLI project group to launch Community, Coats and Cops. It’s an effort to collect coats which are kept in deputies’ squad car trunks and are distributed to citizens as officers see a need. Jamerson wrote about the initiative in GreenvilleOnline. At Furman, new or gently used coats may be taken to the Heller Service Corp office in Trone Student Center now through Nov. 20.

Going the distance


The closest Jennifer Osorno-Bejarano ’12 came to giving up wasn’t when she moved to Greenville at the age of 15 unable to speak English.

LatinosUnited Signature Event: Jennifer Osorno with Furman UES alumna Elenia Himmelstein

Jennifer Osorno-Bejarano and Furman UES alumna Elenia Himmelstein at LatinosUnited Signature Event

Nor was it when she couldn’t graduate from high school until she turned 19, had to pay out-of-state tuition for college classes at Greenville Tech, or spend thousands of dollars and countless hours wading through the cumbersome immigration process.

No, the closest she came to throwing in the towel on her goal of earning a college degree was when she was faced with the prospect of losing something that meant even more.

“When my brother got a letter saying that he could either go wait for his papers down there or he would be out of status and deported if he overstayed, I basically wanted to quit,” Osorno-Bejarano said. “That was a very stressful time.”

The letter came from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and down there was his native Colombia, South America. Sebastian Osorno was a month from his own high school graduation when he had to move to a place he hadn’t been since he was 5, waiting to be granted residency in the United States.

Sebastian’s principal allowed him to graduate early, and Jennifer moved her wedding up so he could attend. There was little else the family could do, however, other than wait in limbo for a year while spending every spare penny they had on lawyers and plane tickets.

The hurdle turned out to be the last of many Osorno-Bejarano faced in her pursuit of four-year degree, but like the others she cleared it during an eight-year quest that culminated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Business Administration from Furman.

Osorno-Bejarano moved to Greenville in 2000 and enrolled in the ninth grade in January, but because of language and credit issues she had to repeat the grade.

When she did graduate from high school, because her residency was not finalized, she was ineligible for in-state tuition, and the double-whammy of much-more-expensive classes and a pricey, protracted immigration process tested Osorno-Bejarano’s pocketbook as well as her patience. It also meant she had clear requirements for continuing her education, which Furman Undergraduate Evening Studies (UES) met.

“I have always worked full time, and I needed something in the evening,” she said. “Furman carried a strong reputation, but the evening program is more affordable . . . I went part time and full time, depending on the semester and how much I could afford.”

The program did more than offer Osorno-Bejarano convenient class times. There was also a personal touch she appreciated, especially from former UES director Brett Barclay. “You go through hard times, yes . . . Life happens. I had some semesters where I kind of wanted to give up, but he was my mentor, and he encouraged me not to quit.”

Like his sister and parents, Sebastian eventually was granted permanent residency, and he’s currently a student at the University of South Carolina. Osorno-Bejarano does the administrative work for the family business, and she says the degree has helped her grow professionally and manage a company while unexpectedly opening another door.

Osorno-Bejarano and LatinosUnited group volunteering at Piedmont Women's Center

Osorno-Bejarano and LatinosUnited group volunteering at Piedmont Women’s Center

“Since I graduated a bunch of friends and I created an organization called LatinosUnited,” she said. “We go to high schools and we speak to students about the importance of higher education, the importance of graduating from high school, of getting a degree, of becoming an entrepreneur, serving the community . . . I’m on the board, and one of the requirements to serve on the board is that you have a degree.”

For more on Furman’s UES program, click here.

Percussion Ensemble presents concert Nov. 21

Dr. Omar Carmenates

Dr. Omar Carmenates

The Furman Percussion Ensemble will present a concert Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall on the Furman University campus.

Directed by Furman music faculty member Dr. Omar Carmenates, A Night of World Premieres is open to the public, and is presented by the Furman Department of Music Sound Quality Concert Series. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students.

The 90-minute concert by the 16-member Percussion Ensemble features contemporary works from both established and emerging composers including a world premiere from pianist and Furman alum Jesse James (Class of 2012). Works by Drew Worden and Christopher Deane, and world premieres by John Psathas (arr. by Omar Carmenates), David Crowell, and David Skidmore are also part of the program.

For more information about the event, contact the Furman University Music Department at (864) 294-2086, or email the department at Furman.Music@furman.edu. Tickets may be purchased online at www.furman.edu/musictickets.

Moravian Christmas Lovefeast Dec. 6

lovefeast-image-2Furman University will host its annual Moravian Christmas Lovefeast service Sunday, Dec. 6, at 5 p.m. in Daniel Memorial Chapel.

The event is free and open to the public, and is part of Furman’s Cultural Life Program.

Based on traditions originating in the early Apostolic church, then later in the Moravian church, the Christmas Lovefeast is a wonderful way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. The service includes the serving of Moravian buns and coffee, and the lighting of beeswax candles. The sanctuary will be lit by pew candle staffs and decorated with red poinsettias.

Furman will provide special music for the service, and the university’s Chancel Choir, conducted by Furman senior Walter Godfrey of Asheville, N.C., will lead the singing of traditional Christmas carols. Senior Rachel Moore of Houston, Texas, and Caroline Violante, a junior from Lake Wylie, S.C., will provide harp accompaniment.

For more information, contact the Furman Chaplains office at (864) 294-2133.


Furman’s Muslim Student Association releases statement on Paris terrorist attacks

The Muslim Student Association at Furman has released the following statement in reaction to the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris Friday night:

“The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Furman University and its Faculty Advisor Dr. Akan Malici from the Political Science Department are horrified by the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris, France on Friday. We, as Muslims at Furman University, just like Muslims anywhere, condemn these horrific acts of violence. We pray for the victims and their families and we stand together with the victims and the people of France and we have and will stand together with whoever is affected by such crimes. We wish that perpetrators of these crimes will be brought to justice.

We agree with the statements issued by the leading Muslim Organizations in America, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Their statements are here:



We are Muslims and our Islamic values are values of justice, compassion and love.  Violence and killing is abhorrent to Islam and as Muslims we believe that the taking of one innocent life is equal to the killing of all of humanity. The terrorists who are committing barbarous acts like those in Paris, are not only enemies of the West, they are enemies of humanity. We will continue to be committed to do whatever we can against terrorists who are acting in the name of religion and bringing havoc to humanity.”

Furman hosts Church Music Conference Jan. 21-22

Dr. Dennis Keene

Dr. Dennis Keene

Furman University will host its 2016 Church Music Conference on campus Thursday and Friday, Jan. 21 and 22.

The conference is open to the public. Registration for the two-day event is $70 on or prior to Jan. 7, and $90 after that date as space remains.

Founded in 1971, the Furman University Church Music Conference is made possible through a grant from the Thomson Foundation. Drawing church musicians from all over the Southeast, the conference features nationally known clinicians who present lectures and conduct workshops relating to the practice of church music. Guest clinicians for this year’s conference are Dennis Keene and William Bradley Roberts.

Dennis Keene is Organist/Choirmaster of The Church of the Ascension (Episcopal), New York and Music Director of the acclaimed ensemble Voices of Ascension, known both nationally and internationally for their spectacular CD recordings of repertory from all periods. Keene will present sessions on choral techniques and conducting, including a master class at which selected conference attendees will conduct for, and receive feedback and coaching from Keene. He will also conduct open rehearsals with the Furman Singers, Furman Chamber Choir, and the adult choir of Greenville’s Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Dr. William Roberts

Dr. William Roberts

William Bradley Roberts, author of Music and Vital Congregations: A Practical Guide for Clergy, will present sessions on Clergy/Musician Working Relationships, Hymnody of Our Time, and his own critically praised sacred choral compositions.

Assisted by the Furman Singers and Furman Chamber Choir, Furman Professor of Organ Charles Tompkins will present a recital on the magnificent C.B. Fisk Organ, Opus 121, in the Charles E. Daniel Memorial Chapel.

More information about the Church Music Conference may be found at this link. Or contact conference coordinator and University Organist Dr. Charles Tompkins at (864) 294-2969, or by email, charles.tompkins@furman.edu. The Furman Music Department may be reached at (864) 294-2086.