BELL TOWER AWARD
CARL F. KOHRT, LYNNE McCARTNEY KOHRT
Something in our understanding of heroism has been appropriated by the notion of celebrity. More often it is the quiet dignity of presence, sacrifice, and self-effacement that illuminates the truly heroic.
So it is with Carl and Lynne Kohrt. Motivated by their deep affection for Furman, the couple willingly and with great enthusiasm accepted the interim roles of President and President’s spouse for the 2013-14 academic year.
Theirs was a constant presence on campus, among Furman’s alumni and friends, and in the broader community. Whether helping freshmen move into their residence halls, attending athletic events, meeting with alumni, or opening wide the doors of White Oaks to welcome guests from around the world, the Kohrts personify ideals of hospitality and faithfulness that mirror those of their beloved University.
Carl, an alumnus of the Class of 1965 and a Trustee of the University, eschewed the role of caretaker. He lent transparency that engendered trust, an easy humor that leavened the distress of difficult decisions, and the wisdom of his many years of corporate and civic leadership.
And always there was Lynne, whose quiet determination and gentle temperament complemented her husband’s effervescence, and whose abiding grace endeared her to everyone with the good fortune to have met her.
For lifelong devotion to Furman University, for unsurpassed contributions to its students and to the entire Furman community, and for heroic inclination to serve others, Furman proudly presents the Bell Tower Award to Carl and Lynne Kohrt.
Doctor of Humanities
Lillian Brock Flemming ’71
Before there is vision, there is hope. For more than four decades since her graduation from Furman, Lillian Brock Flemming has worked tirelessly to achieve a distinctive vision of humanitarian service driven by her aspirations for the citizens of Greenville and the State of South Carolina. In turn, she has given hope to countless others.
Tenacity and the will to transform her dreams into intentional action have been the hallmarks of her long and distinguished career as an educator and public servant. After graduating Furman with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Lillian taught high school mathematics for 23 years, and currently is the Professional Employment Recruiter for the Greenville County Schools. She also is a past President of the Greenville County Education Association.
In 1981, she ran a successful campaign for election to the Greenville City Council, becoming the first African-American woman to serve on the panel. She has served continuously since then, re-elected eight times to her seat, and is the first Greenville council member to be elected President of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
Her generous spirit has found other expression, as well. Lillian is a leader for numerous civic and community organizations, including chairing the boards of the Southernside Community Center and Brockwood Senior Housing, the latter named for her late mother, Lila Mae Brock. She and her husband are the parents of 10 children, and also have dedicated their time as foster parents.
To Furman Lillian has remained true; she has served as a member of the Board of Trustees, and is a regular presence on campus. An annual leadership award honoring a multicultural senior for sustained leadership in student organizations is named for her, and she is the recipient of the University’s Baptist Heritage Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award.
For an enduring commitment to the commonweal that is both inspiration and a call to action, for principled leadership that lends a clarion voice to hope, and for a compelling vision of a world united, Furman University is proud to confer upon Lillian Brock Flemming the degree of Doctor of Humanities.
Doctor of Humanities
Sarah Reese ’71
Art transcends time and place, illuminating and shaping humankind’s most enduring questions and ideas. We are all beneficiaries of artists whose distinctive voices offer an inheritance of insight, and sublime moments of revelation that deepen our understanding of the world.
In a career spanning more than four decades, the acclaimed soprano Sarah Reese has taken us into moments of soulful confrontation and transcendence. Though performance is always ephemeral, her interpretations of the great operatic oeuvre have left lasting impressions, and provided listeners access to epiphanies that may otherwise have been unrealized.
Sarah has performed on the world’s great stages as a principal artist for the New York Metropolitan Opera and a performer with leading orchestras spanning the globe. She has embodied some of the most coveted—and challenging—roles in her field: Mimi in La Boheme, Violetta in La Traviata, Micaela in Carmen, and the title role in Madame Butterfly. For more than 15 years, she was the artist-in-residence at the prestigious Opera Company of Boston and was a favorite soprano of Herbert Von Karajan’s, the conductor extraordinaire of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Sarah Reese left Furman with the call of the artist; now retired from professional performance, she has returned to South Carolina and is ensuring that the call be heard by others, serving as a professional vocal coach and consultant, and as a teacher at Pendleton High School in South Carolina. She has been previously recognized with Furman’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
For her dedication as a musician committed to the ideals of artistic expression, for bringing joy and beauty to millions who have heard and seen her perform, and for her attention to cultivating the next generation of great artists, Furman University is proud to confer upon Sarah Reese the degree of Doctor of Humanities.
Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award
April Baker ’85
Ordained Baptist pastor, inclusive and committed, a feminist, a prophet—April Baker has with steadfast courage, honor, and faithfulness carried the tradition and responsibility of Baptist dissent forward.
As Pastor of Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Rev. Baker ministers to a pioneering congregation that was the first Southern Baptist Church in Nashville to choose women as deacons. She was called to serve as Associate Pastor in 2002, the first woman in the Church’s 54-year-history to be called, and in 2004 the congregation voted to call her and Rev. Amy Mears (a 1984 Furman graduate) as co-pastors.
In addition to her pastoral responsibilities at Glendale, her 26 years of ministry includes service within local congregations, tutoring and interpretation for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, and case management and counseling for women with felony convictions in a residential alternative-to-prison program.
Rev. Baker, who earned the M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1989, has served as vice president of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Alliance of Baptists. She also served on a team with the Alliance of Baptists and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists that helped produce the first edition of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2000), a guide for individuals and churches involved in conversations about same-sex relationships.
The Glendale congregation has a long history of forthrightly engaging matters of contemporary faith, and Rev. Baker has been steadfast in reminding the congregation that the dissenting voice is one of the strongholds of Baptist understanding. She has done so boldly, peacefully, and lovingly.
For giving voice to the prophetic and the compassionate in authentic ways, and for providing opportunities for individuals and institutions alike to strengthen, expand, and translate the relationship between faith and learning, Furman University is proud to recognize Rev. April Baker with the 2014 Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award.
Class of 2015
Cassie Chee is a Spanish and Political Science major from Clarksburg, New Jersey. Respected for her strong academic talents, contributions to course discussions and her ability to be a team player, Cassie’s dedication to volunteerism and community service have allowed her to serve as a strong liaison between the University and the Hispanic community. Her dedication to others manifests itself in her commitment to campus activities as well as volunteerism in the Greenville community, her home town, and abroad. She is a member of the Riley Institute Advanced Team, Student Alumni Council, Sigma Delta Pi Spanish honor society, Chi Omega sorority, and is secretary for the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society. She is also a liaison for incoming international students and serves as co-division head of the language learners division of the Heller Service Corps.
Luke Christie hails from Due West, South Carolina, and is majoring in Communication Studies. Planning a Master of Fine Arts degree, Luke has been lauded for his writing, public speaking, presentation, and analytical talents. His work has been featured in an undergraduate journal and has also won an award at the Southern Literary Festival. He has made strong contributions to the Furman Advantage program as well as an all-faculty seminar, where he was the first student member. Luke is the National Youth Chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, participates in the Shucker Leadership Institute, is a member of the Presbyterian Student Association, and serves as the executive producer for Furman’s television network. In addition, he has been a member of the President’s Task Force on Civil Discourse and has given a TEDx talk at the University.
Kris Hajny a Chemistry and Sustainability Science double major from Mooresville, North Carolina, is a gifted student and researcher. He has presented in front of the American Chemical Society and the Association of American Geographers. He also has an article under review for publication in the Development and Change journal. Kris has a strong commitment to sustainability, which is evidenced by his role as a Student Fellow at the Shi Center for Sustainability and his residency in the Environmental Community of Students and Greenbelt Engaged Living Programs. Kris is a member of the Sustainability Club, Bartram Society, Environmental Action Group, Furman Farm, Furman in the Garden, Habitat for Humanity, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and the Poinsett Highway Project.
Orlin Sergev of Charleston, South Carolina, is a natural leader who is highly regarded for his friendly personality, dedication, and genuine care and concern for others. A Chemistry major, Orlin’s commitment to service is highlighted by his work as a Peer Advisor. In addition, he holds officer roles in a variety of student organizations ranging from science and pre-health honor societies to the Political Thought Club. Orlin’s innate ability to improve organizations is evidenced through his successful tenure as president of Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-health honor society and Furman’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society. Orlin’s strong research ability is highlighted by his physical chemistry work on the interaction of DNA with silver clusters as well his selection to present at an American Chemical Society meeting, where his work was lauded.
Emily Vontsolos, an Economics and Spanish double major, is from Winston Salem, North Carolina. Praised for her strong contributions in the classroom, Emily is known for her ability to understand not just theory and assumptions, but how material relates to the bigger picture. A strong representative of Furman and the United States, Emily is respected for her dedication to the Chile study abroad program as well as her efforts as part of the U.S. delegation at the APEC Voices of the Future Conference. Winner of the Adam Smith prize for best economics paper, the Arthur Magill Award for a rising senior with exceptional promise, and the Engaged Living Academic Excellence Award, Emily is a member of the Riley Institute Advance Team, active in Reformed University Fellowship and Religious Council as well as the International Justice Mission, the Pre-Orientation Staff for Student Life, and Delta Delta Delta sorority.