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Furman alumni donate $6.1 million to music department

Gordon Herring and Sarah Herring, Furman classes of 1965 and 1966, respectively, have pledged a gift of $6.1 million to the Furman Department of Music.

The donation established the Herring Music Chair Endowment and the Herring Music Fellowship Fund. The couple’s gift continues a decades-long tradition of generosity to the department in terms of time, guidance and financial support. “We hope our gift will attract exceptional students who can be magnets to draw other talented musicians to Furman’s music programs,” Sarah Herring said. Both Sarah, a German major, and Gordon, a history major, were members of the Furman Singers when they were students, an experience that fostered a special bond with Furman’s music department. “Furman is exceptional for providing students with a rigorous liberal arts education,” Gordon Herring said. “We believe the other liberal arts are enhanced by music. Because we weren’t music majors, our experience with Furman Singers served to complete our liberal arts education.” Gordon was a telecommunications executive who helped launch The Weather Channel in 1982, while Sarah’s career was in senior management for telephone company operations.
The Herrings’ legacy of generosity to Furman includes a $1.8 million gift that led to the construction of the Herring Center for Lifelong Learning, and a $1.25 million donation that served as the lead investment for the Nan Trammell Herring Music Pavilion. Since the mid-1990s, the Herrings have provided Partner Scholarships, which support multiple music students each year. Gordon, an emeritus trustee, believes music speaks to the soul of the individual and thereby enriches the soul of the university, especially in these challenging times. Bingham Vick Jr., professor of music emeritus and director of the Furman Singers from 1970 to 2010, emphasizes the importance of the Herrings’ gift to the university in attracting gifted music students. “In recent years, rising costs of Furman, increased competition for musical talent with other quality collegiate music programs, and knowing the value and the importance of the cultural experience that a strong music department could offer to students and to the community, the Herrings have taken a bold and important step and investment in the Furman musical program,” Vick said. “I can attest to the importance and benefit Furman’s strong music program has had on the lives thousands of students. The Herring Fellowships now lead the way toward an even brighter future for the enrichment of the Furman experience.”

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Furman English Professor Joni Tevis awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

(Ed. note: Consider this submission, with its rich context, an addendum to this story on The Hub last week.)


Joni Tevis, the Bennette E. Geer Associate Professor of English at Furman University, has been awarded a 2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA selected only 36 Fellows from a pool of nearly 1,700 applicants – just over 2 percent. The individual fellowships are valued at $25,000 and enable the recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel and general career advancement. Fellows are selected through an anonymous process and are judged on the artistic excellence of the work sample provided. Tevis earned the honor for her work of prose, “What the Body Knows,” found in the book, The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse, a collection of her writings published in 2015 by Milkweed Editions. “What the Body Knows” draws from Tevis’ journey with her spouse and a guide up the Canning River in the northeast reaches of Alaska, where, she says in her essay, there’s “no road but the river, and two weeks to reach the edge of the world.” The Canning flows 125 miles through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and spills into Camden Bay, which is fed by the Arctic Ocean. Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the NEA, said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support our nation’s writers, including Joni Tevis, and the artistry, creativity and dedication that go into their work.” Tevis says she is grateful to Furman for supporting her work and trips into the wild, and she says the fellowship did not come easily. For writers who have met rigorous publishing requirements in prose, the fellowship is offered every other year from the NEA. Tevis has applied seven times since 2007. “I’m so honored and humbled by this fellowship,” Tevis said. “I ask my students, as I ask myself: ‘What would you write if you knew you could not fail?’ I treasure this ‘yes’ after the six rounds of ‘no,’ but the ‘noes’ were useful too, because they spurred me on. We must never give up.” Tevis will apply the fellowship funds toward her next sabbatical, where she’ll finish her current book manuscript –“a book of nonfiction about creation, destruction and the music that sees us through,” she said. A winner of multiple awards, Tevis has been published in Oxford American, the Bellingham Review, Shenandoah, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and Orion, a literary journal focused on environmental themes, and where “What the Body Knows” also appeared. Formerly a park ranger, factory worker and purveyor of cemetery plots, Tevis teaches literature and creative writing at Furman and is the author of another acclaimed book of essays, The Wet Collection: A Field Guide to Iridescence and Memory (2012, Milkweed Editions), her first book of nonfiction. She came to Furman in 2008 after serving as the Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She helped create the English department’s new writing track, which offers courses in nonfiction, fiction and poetry writing. Tevis holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and advanced degrees from the University of Houston.

Greenville writer wins NEA fellowship

More #SCartists good news before the weekend


Thursday, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a total of $1.2 million in fellowships to creative writers and translators, supporting both the development of new works of American literature and the translation into English of literary prose, poetry, and drama from writers around the world. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support our nation’s writers and translators and their efforts to expand our literary landscape through their artistry, creativity, and dedication,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts also announced the first round of FY 2020 grants for arts projects, which included 53 grants totaling $1,150,000 for literary publishing projects. Click here for The Hub's coverage and here for the NEA's announcement

Creative Writing Fellowships

Jodi Tevis headshotThe National Endowment for the Arts will award 36 Creative Writing Fellowships of $25,000 each, for a total of $900,000. Fellowships alternate each year between poetry and prose and this year’s fellowships are to support prose—works of fiction and creative nonfiction, such as memoirs and personal essays. The Arts Endowment received nearly 1,700 eligible applications, which were reviewed anonymously by a panel solely on the artistic excellence of the writing sample submitted. These fellowships allow recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement. Among them is Greenville writer Dr. Joni Tevis (right), an assistant professor of English at Furman University. Her bio on the Furman website says she is a creative writer with research interests in the essay, environmental writing, and atomic literature. Her first book of nonfiction, The Wet Collection, was published by Milkweed Editions. Since 1967, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than 3,500 Creative Writing Fellowships totaling over $55 million. Many recipients have gone on to receive the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction, such as Anthony Doerr, Louise Erdrich, Tyehimba Jess, Jennifer Egan, and Juan Felipe Herrera.

Literature Translation Fellowships

In fiscal year 2020, the National Endowment for the Arts will award 24 Literature Translation Fellowships of $12,500 each, for a total of $300,000. These fellowships will support the English translation of works from 19 countries including Brazil, Egypt, and Japan. Most of these fellowships are to translate works of award-winning and bestselling authors, many of whom have not yet been represented in English. Supported projects include a translation by Bill Johnston of the first two books in the novel cycle Nights and Days by Polish writer Maria Dąbrowska and a translation by Nancy Naomi Carlson of two poetry collections by Congolese author Alain Mabanckou. Since 1981, the Arts Endowment has awarded 504 fellowships to 445 translators, with translations representing 70 languages and 86 countries. Past recipients include Natasha Wimmer, whose fellowship supported her translation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, and Jennifer Croft, whose fellowship supported her translation of Nobel Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights. Visit the Arts Endowment’s Literature Fellowships webpage to read excerpts by and features on past Creative Writing Fellows and Literature Translation Fellows.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.

Furman student presents at prestigious conferences

Furman undergrad getting noticed for research


Furman University senior Beth Fraser of Shelby, North Carolina, has won the respect only few undergraduate-level researchers receive in the world of literature and Romanticism. This summer, Shelby (right) presented her research at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment held at University of California, Davis, and at the International Conference on Romanticism hosted by The University of Manchester, England. Both conferences are known for discriminating audiences, researchers, and equally scrutinous research review committees. At the two meetings, Fraser presented “Poesy breaths in all: Ecocritical Explorations of Romanticism’s Omnipoetic Universe.” Born of Fraser’s interdisciplinary project examining ecoacoustic avian telemetries, the paper explores naturalistic figurations of birdsong by Romantic poet John Clare, who was described by his biographer as “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced.” The opportunity to present at both conferences was a pleasant surprise for Fraser. “I scarcely dared to hope that either would accept me, and yet here I am with the beautiful opportunity to present at both,” she said. Mentor Michele Speitz, Furman associate professor of English literature, said that many graduate students and faculty members submit work to these conferences without success. “So for Beth to be selected as the only undergraduate to present at two major professional conferences is truly remarkable,” Speitz said. “She is not only presenting her work in front of an exacting audience, but is speaking as an expert, as someone with something important to share with people in the know.” Fraser said Furman’s Office of Undergraduate Research and the Furman Humanities Development Fund encouraged and supported her investigations. An English literature and art history double-major, Fraser specializes in 19th-century British literature and early 20th-century painting with particular interests in Romanticism, ekphrastic poetry, the Simultaneous movement, aesthetic theologies, ecocritical theory, and the intersection of art and literature. Fraser is especially interested in Romantic-era metaphysics and ecocritical art history. She is co-writing an article with Speitz entitled “Avian Telemetries & the Audible Anthropocene: Romantic Ecoacoustics, Transdisciplinary Ecologies, Sympoetic Worlding.” Following graduation next spring, Fraser plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Romantic literature or modern art on her way to becoming a professor in the field.

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Fulbright grant sending Furman musicologist to Russia

Laura Kennedy, Furman University associate professor of musicology, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to conduct research in Russia during the 2019/2020 academic year. For her research project, “Ballet in a Waning Empire: Shostakovich, Lopukhov, and the Search for Soviet Dance,” Kennedy will work in music and dance archives in St. Petersburg and Moscow. She will research costumes, set designs, choreographic notes, musical scores, photographs and other materials from early Soviet ballet productions written in Leningrad in the 1920s and 1930s, a formative period of experimentation in the Russian arts. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright honor represents a national competition across the humanities, arts, sciences and education. Grantees undergo a rigorous peer-review process, in which proposals are evaluated in both the U.S. and destination countries and are finally selected by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. “I’m thrilled with the opportunity of this Fulbright and with the chance to pursue new research on Russian ballet. My goal is to author the first book ever written on the ballets of Dmitri Shostakovich: The Golden Age, The Bolt, and The Limpid Stream,” said Kennedy. “These early ballets set the direction of Soviet dance, ensuring ballet’s place as a central expression of Soviet cultural achievement and diplomacy in the 20th century.”


This latest Fulbright award marks Kennedy’s second grant to study in Russia. Her first Fulbright was awarded to conduct research in 2006/2007 on Shostakovich when she was a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan. “The Fulbright Scholar award combines my expertise in Shostakovich’s music and manuscripts with my work on dance,” said Kennedy. “I’m grateful to the Department of Music, the Research & Professional Growth Committee, and the Humanities Development Fund at Furman for generously supporting the opportunities that have shaped my scholarship in music and dance. And I’m equally grateful to the Fulbright program for the unique experiences it has afforded me as a scholar,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy joined the Furman faculty in 2012. She coordinates the music history curriculum and teaches courses on music and dance history. With Patricia Sasser, director of Furman’s Maxwell Music Library, she also co-directs the department’s study away course to Paris and London: “Rites of Spring: Paris, the Ballets Russes, & the Arts of Modernism.” Her work has been published in Fontes Artis Musicae, Notes: The Journal of the Music Library Association, the Journal of Music History Pedagogy, and Information Literacy in Music (A-R Editions). She holds a bachelor’s in music from Wheaton College and a Ph.D. in historical musicology from the University of Michigan. For more information, contact the Furman News and Media Relations office at 864.294.3107.

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Furman music librarian Sasser honored with international award

Patricia Puckett Sasser, director of Furman’s Maxwell Music Library, has won the Vladimir Fédorov Award from the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) for her paper “A Recording Artist: Enrico Caruso and His Scrapbooks.” Presented annually, the award recognizes the best article published in peer-reviewed Fontes Artis Musicae, the quarterly membership journal of the IAML. Announced at the IAML Conference in Krákow, Poland, in July, the award is named for Fédorov (1901-1979), noted music librarian, first editor-in-chief of Fontes Artis Musicae, and Russian music scholar. An abstract of Sasser’s winning paper may be found at: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/709645.


Sasser, who has served as a Furman library faculty member since 2014, said, “I was surprised and delighted to receive this award, both because it is a special honor to be recognized by my IAML colleagues and because it represents the culmination of a long-standing research project. “My work on Caruso has been generously supported by the Furman Libraries and it could not have been achieved without their help and enthusiasm–whether by locating resources or by funding research trips to New York and Italy.” As director of Maxwell Music Library, Sasser oversees music information literacy, research assistance and collection management. She is deeply embedded in the Department of Music’s four-year curricular pathway, working closely with students and faculty in first-year seminars, the music history survey sequence and upper-level independent studies. With Associate Professor of Musicology Laura Kennedy, Sasser co-teaches the department’s study away course to Paris and London: Rites of Spring: Paris, the Ballets Russes, & the Arts of Modernism. Her research focuses on musical ephemera from the late 19th and early 20th century, studying items like ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, playbills, programs and receipts–“things produced during artistic activity that aren’t intended to be preserved,” said Sasser. She is especially interested in the ways in which both amateur and professional musicians have collected and curated such material in order to shape their own identities, a fascination which spurred her research into Caruso’s scrapbooks, nine of which survive among his private papers. “His scrapbooks,” said Sasser, “are just one example of the ways in which a popular artist sought to cultivate a private identity.” Her work has been published in Music Reference Services Quarterly, Notes: The Journal of the Music Library Association, and the Journal of Music History Pedagogy. She has contributed to a number of large-scale collaborative digital projects, including Chronicling America and the Music Treasures Consortium, and has served the Southeastern Music Library Association and the Music Library Association in a number of roles.
Sasser earned her Master of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, and her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina. She holds a bachelor’s in music from the American University. For more information, contact Sasser at 864.294.2192.

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Furman University tenor wins national competition

Bergsvein Toverud a winner in Chicago


Bergsvein Toverud, a 2019 Furman University music education graduate, has won first prize in the Advanced Classical Division at the Classical Singer Competition, which took place recently in Chicago. Toverud, of Lenoir, North Carolina, prevailed through several rounds (state, national second round, and semi-finals) before being chosen as one of four to advance to finals, where he bested students from the nation’s most prestigious conservatories and schools of music. "It’s exciting to win a competition, but winning is second to the pursuit of musical excellence. My drive as a musician comes from a reverence of the art and the intense human expression that music carries," said Toverud. Last summer, Toverud was a finalist and winner at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada. While at Furman, he studied voice with Associate Professor of Music Grant Knox, who said, “This award is quite an accomplishment, not only for Bergsvein, but for the entire Furman Department of Music.” Active in many aspects of the music program, Toverud sang Ralph Rackstraw in “H.M.S. Pinafore” and the Witch in “Hansel and Gretel” with Furman Lyric Theatre, directed by Knox. He was a featured soloist in numerous concerts with the Furman Symphony Orchestra and was a member of both the Furman Singers and Furman Chamber Choir. Toverud was the recipient of the DuPre Rhame Scholarship and the Hartness Scholarship at Furman. Outside of the department, Toverud held the Herring Church Music Internship at First Baptist Church in Greenville. Toverud will continue his studies in vocal performance this fall at the Eastman School of Music, where he has received a substantial merit award and graduate teaching fellowship.

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New book takes dogs in literature for a walk

Furman librarian Jeffrey Makala co-edits anthology

Jeffrey Makala, Furman University special collections librarian and university archivist at the James B. Duke Library, has co-edited a new book about dogs in literature. The book, “In Dogs We Trust: An Anthology of American Dog Literature,” is co-edited by Jacob F. Rivers III and published by the University of South Carolina Press. A book signing event is set for Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-noon at M. Judson Booksellers in downtown Greenville. University of South Carolina Press offers this description of “In Dogs We Trust”:

“‘In Dogs We Trust’ is a grand anthology that celebrates the many sterling virtues of the canine species. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years as working partners. By the 19th century, their role expanded to companions. American dog literature reflects this gradual but dramatic shift that continues even today. Our household dogs are quite literally closer than ever to us: sleeping in our beds, getting dressed in Halloween costumes, and serving as emotional support companions.

“The first comprehensive anthology of American dog literature, ‘In Dogs We Trust’ features stories, anecdotes and poetry from periodicals dating from the 19th to the early 20th century. By mining the vast American literary archive of this time, Rivers and Makala reveal the mystique and magic of the human-canine relationship and what they believe is one of the best connections humans have to the mysteries of the natural world.”

Rivers is the director for the Office of Veterans Services at the University of South Carolina and a teacher in the Department of English. He is the author of “Cultural Values in the Southern Sporting Narrative” and “Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen: 1830-1910.” Apart from his roles as special collections librarian and university archivist at Furman, Makala is owner of Two Terriers Press. He has written about 19th century American literature and book history in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America; Literature & History; Printing History; and The Oxford Companion to the Book. He is also an editor for The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP News).

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Alumna Sue Samuels named Furman bands director

Sue Samuels, a 1987 Furman University graduate, has been named director of bands for the Furman Department of Music. Samuels, who fills the post of retiring music faculty member Leslie W. Hicken, will assume the role in fall semester 2019. Samuels is director of visual and performing arts at Randolph School in Huntsville, Ala. Prior to Randolph School, she served 14 years as director of bands at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she led the Marching Blazers, the Wind Symphony, the Symphony Band, and the Blazer Band, as well as taught courses in conducting and music education. Samuels’ teaching experience includes 12 years at Lassiter High School in Marietta Ga., one year as assistant director of bands at the University of Georgia, and two years as director of bands at WT Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va. Under her direction, the high school bands received straight superior ratings at festivals throughout her 14-year career as band director and have garnered recognition on the national stage.


Growing up in a military family, Samuels lived in five states as a youngster before her family settled in Columbia. Later, Samuels attended Furman and earned a bachelor’s in music education. Samuels also studied at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where she received a master’s in instrumental conducting. She also studied at the Eastman School of Music, and at Auburn University where she earned a Ph.D. in music education in 2009. Current Director of Bands Leslie W. Hicken joined the Furman music faculty 26 years ago. He will pass his academic baton to Samuels when he retires this spring. Just weeks after leading the Symphonic Winds in a performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Hicken will conduct his last concert with the ensemble Friday, April 12, at 8 p.m. in McAlister Auditorium on campus. Known for his contributions to the community, Hicken will again lead the 2019 Furman Summer Concert Series, Music by the Lake, a Greenville tradition for more than 50 years, and continue as artistic director and conductor of the Carolina Youth Symphony, which will also perform at Carnegie Hall in late April.

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Furman tenors shine at national competition in Las Vegas

After impressive performances at both state and regional National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions held earlier this year, two Furman University vocalists made the best of opportunities to compete on the national stage. Tyrese Byrd, a junior vocal performance major from Williamston and Bergsvein Toverud, a senior music education major from Lenoir, N.C., competed in the semifinals and finals of the National Student Auditions, part of the 55th NATS competition held June 22-26 in Las Vegas. The tenors won third place in their divisions at the event where they competed among 200 vocalists. Before getting a chance to compete in the semis, the two were required to submit YouTube videos for the preliminary round. (View them here: Toverud | Byrd)  Having made the cut, which included the top 14 in their respective divisions, the tenors matriculated to the live semifinal round where they continued to shine. Only the top three or four singers in each category from the semifinals advanced to the live, national final. “Tyrese and Bergsvein were the only two tenors competing in the college classical competition at this level. This is remarkable considering the size of our music program. It says a lot about the type of student and level of talent we have here, ” Furman Professor of Voice Grant Knox said. Knox believes no other school came away with two finalists at the competition. And besides acknowledging the raw talent students brought to the event, Knox gives a nod to Furman. “These types of successes would not be possible without Furman’s support and encouragement. These students come to Furman because they feel the university values music and the arts. I look forward to celebrating more achievements like these in the years to come,” he said.


For more information, contact Grant Knox at 864.294.3034 and grant.knox@furman.edu.