Musical Performance

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An Evening of Classical and Musical Theater Works

The Spartanburg Methodist College Interdisciplinary Studies Committee announces An Evening of Classical and Musical Theater Works on Tuesday, October 25th at 7 p.m., in Gibbs Auditorium (in Ellis Hall). The featured musicians are Blake Anthony Ellege and Sarah Jane Gibbs. The performance is free and open to the public.

Ellege graduated from Brevard College with a Bachelor of Arts in music with an emphasis in classical vocal music performance. As a student, he won numerous awards including Most Outstanding Music Performer, the Asheville Lyric Opera Guild Scholarship and a nomination from The Kennedy Center for Best Sound Design in a Collegiate Theater Production in 2013. In June 2014, Ellege competed at the NATS (National Association of Teachers in Singing) Competition where he was ranked one of the top four lyrical tenors in the United States for classical voice and one of the top 14 tenors in the United States for musical theater. Ellege has recorded and released seven albums in 2016.

Gibbs received her Bachelor of Arts in music performance from Converse College, where she was featured in operatic and musical theater productions, including Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Vivviane in Legally Blonde the Musical, Canta Nuova in Impressario as well as the opportunity to be a part of many recitals and other performances. She currently resides in Asheville, NC, and performs with companies such as Asheville Lyric Opera, Asheville Arts Academy and Asheville Community Theater.

The Evening of Classical and Musical Theater Works is part of SMC’s new Interdisciplinary Series, which features performances, speakers and art experiences that enhance the liberal arts mission of the college. More information about the Interdisciplinary Series may be found at


SMC Founder’s Day


Fibonacci Sequence Talk


SMC professor, composer to discuss mysterious Fibonacci sequence in everyday life

Sept. 29 talk examines math phenomenon linking music, art, science and engineering.

From the recent best-seller “The Da Vinci Code,” by Dan Brown to Bill Amend’s “Fox Trot” comic strip to Black Star’s hip-hop song “Astronomy (8th Light),” the centuries-old Fibonacci sequence continues to fascinate and inspire modern scholars, writers, artists and engineers. Dr. Lanny Lanford, Professor of Music and Director of Spartanburg Methodist College Music Programs, will examine these remarkable mathematical links occurring all around us in his Sept. 29 presentation, “The Fibonacci Sequence: Coincidences of Intrigue.”

Lanford’s talk will be held in Davis Mission Chapel on the SMC campus at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers are a sequence of integers, starting with 0, 1 and continuing 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and with each new number being the sum of the previous two. Named for 11th century Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, known as Fibonacci, the mathematical pattern appears to occur naturally throughout nature, suggesting a fundamental relationship to life itself. Lanford’s talk examines the pattern across a variety of subjects. “Could it be that a mathematical equation reveals an astonishing link between geometry, music, microbiology, botany, finance, art, architecture and aerospace?” he asks. “A look through Fibonacci’s window leads us to some intriguing conclusions.”

Lanford’s talk is part of SMC’s Interdisciplinary Series, which features performances, speakers and art experiences that enhance the liberal arts mission of the college. According to Kris Neely, director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program and professor of art, the series expands opportunities for intellectual and artistic explorations outside campus. “The Interdisciplinary Studies program at SMC highlights shared inquiries that bind us together across our individual subject areas,” he explains. “While the events are intended to serve the campus directly, we also want to share these opportunities with members of the Spartanburg community.”

More information about the Interdisciplinary Series and upcoming events may be found at

Lanford is the author of “Mr. Scrooge!” a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and an award-winning composer and film scorer. He holds a bachelor’s degree (with choral emphasis) from the University of South Carolina (USC), a master’s in church music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a doctorate in musical arts from USC.


Caz McCaslin to Keynote the 2016 Convocation at SMC

Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce Caz McCaslin of Upward Sports as the keynote speaker at its annual convocation ceremony marking the beginning of the new school year. The event will be Wednesday, September 7, at 11:00 a.m. in Jesse L. Bridges Arena on the SMC campus and is open to the public and free of charge.

McCaslin’s talk, “Today Matters,” will focus on overcoming adversity. After an injury ended his college basketball dreams, McCaslin was forced to find a new direction for his life. His struggle eventually led to the founding of Upward Sports in 1995.
With a mission to promote the discovery of Jesus through sports, Upward Sports has grown from several hundred children playing in a basketball league in one church to the world’s largest Christian youth sports league. Today, approximately half a million players at more than 2,000 churches in 47 states participate in camps, clinics, and leagues for basketball, soccer, flag football, volleyball, baseball, and cheerleading through Upward Sports’ recreation and performance divisions.

McCaslin is a graduate of the University of Georgia and has more than 30 years of experience in ministry. As founder, president and a member of the board of Upward Sports, McCaslin believes that cultivating a spiritual foundation in America’s youth is at the heart of creating successful, empowered generations to come. His sports programs develop total athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially, producing players who excel both on and off the field. He is the author of three books, Every Child Is a Winner, Act or React, and the soon to be released Coach ‘Em Up. He and his wife, Leslie, reside in Spartanburg and have three children and three grandchildren.


SMC’s Psi Beta Chapter Earns Two Significant Awards


Spartanburg Methodist College’s Psi Beta chapter recently won two awards for the 2015-2016 school year. The chapter received the Ann Garrett Robinson College Life Award for the first time and the Chapter Excellence Award for the fifth consecutive year. “SMC’s chapter has been recognized by the national organization for several years, and we commend members and leaders for their commitment to excellence,” said Dr. Ann Bowles, executive vice president for academic affairs and student development. “What a great way to start another year of transforming the lives of the young people entrusted to us!”

The College Life Award is given to chapters whose programs promote the quality of two-year college life and advance the discipline of psychology. A National Honor Society in psychology for community and junior colleges, SMC Psi Beta received the College Life Award because of the success of Psi Beta Seminars presented throughout the past school year. The seminars tackled numerous theories and topics often discussed in psychology classes and brought to life by guest and faculty speakers through the discussion of actual life events. Seminars included “The Causal and Protective Factors of Child Neglect” with Dr. Monica McCoy; “PTSD: The Invisible Wounds of War” with Dr. Craig Burnette; “Altruism: The Psychology of Giving. The Izabella McMillon Story” with Ms. Izabella McMillon; and others.

According to SMC Psi Beta Head Adviser Dr. Mary Jane L. Farmer, the chapter has become a household name because of the seminars. “Psi Beta never fails to contribute to the life and quality of learning within and beyond the campus,” she says. “A countless number of students have actually changed their majors to psychology.” Dr. Farmer directs SMC Psi Beta with assistance from Pete Aylor, psychology professor, and director of SMC’s Career and Transfer Services, and Sue Onken, college counselor. Onken is grateful for the series offered to staff and students. “[It gives] them insight into a vast area of human experiences and needs, professional services available and career options for their enlightenment and consideration,” she explains.

Since its first award in 2011, SMC Psi Beta has earned the Psi Beta Chapter Excellence Award five years in a row. Chapters must meet or exceed the standards of chapter excellence criteria outlined by the national organization and complete activities that reflect leadership, scholarship, community service, and research principles within Psi Beta’s mission. “It is humbling to be recognized by the Psi Beta National Chapter,” says Farmer. “The bar is set high for us to serve SMC through Psi Beta via the guiding principles of leadership, scholarship, community service and research.”

About Psi Beta
Psi Beta is a National Honor Society in psychology for community and junior colleges. Its mission is to encourage professional development and psychological literacy of all students at two-year colleges through promotion and recognition of excellence in scholarship, leadership, research, and community service. Membership to Psi Beta is by invitation only. To be considered, SMC students must have at least 12 college credits, earn a B or higher in PSYC 101, maintain a 3.25 GPA and be of good moral character. Over 450 SMC students have achieved lifetime membership to Psi Beta.


SMC Welcomes Dr. Brian Dunn to Biology Department


Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Brian Dunn as Professor of Biology. He will begin working with students this fall.

Dunn comes to SMC from Gonzaga University in Spokane, where he served as a biology lecturer teaching upper-level microbiology lab and cellular and molecular components for freshman biology majors. He had the opportunity to mentor undergraduates in research projects and volunteered to assist premed students with medical school applications among other service opportunities on campus.

According to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ann Bowles, Dr. Dunn’s academic experience includes work as Assistant Professor of Biology at Georgia Regents University from 2011-2014. “He was involved in student learning assessment and worked to improve the quality of courses and the success of students in the biology department,” says Bowles.

Dunn earned his doctorate in cell biology at Yale and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wheaton College. He was also a postdoctoral research associate at UNC, Chapel Hill. He and his wife, Heather, have recently relocated to Spartanburg.


Adam Siegfried Appointed to SMC Faculty



Dr. Adam Siegfried has been appointed to the faculty of Spartanburg Methodist College as Professor of Chemistry. Siegfried, who completed his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Clemson University in May, has been employed at SMC as an interim professor of chemistry since August 2015.

Siegfried previously served as Adjunct Instructor at Anderson University and Tri-County Technical College. In addition to bringing extensive teaching experience to the position, he has a strong interest and background in supervising undergraduate research. From 2008 to 2010, he trained undergraduates in crystal growth and design as part of the Clemson University Summer Undergraduate Research Program. This summer, he supervised two SMC students in the design and growth of a new iodine crystal which could eventually lead to improved solar cell performance. Their research will be published next spring and was funded by a grant from Furman University’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program.

Siegfried received a Master of Science degree in inorganic chemistry from Clemson University in 2008. He received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Coker College in 2002.


Kristofer Neely joins SMC faculty as Professor of Art


Photo Credit: Mark Olencki, Wofford College

Kristofer Neely Joins SMC Faculty as Professor of Art

Kristofer M. Neely, a visual artist and creative writer, has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as Professor of Art. Neely is also the owner and creative director of Wet Paint Syndrome, an art gallery and studio located in Spartanburg.

Best known for the angel paintings he calls “Guardians,” Neely is a painter who uses traditional surfaces, wood and other found objects. He has exhibited his works widely in South Carolina and the southeastern United States, and has participated in showings in New York, New Mexico and Canada. His art, creative writing and poetry have been featured in books, journals and publications, including The Underground Guide to Spartanburg by Joe Mullinax (2012), Artists Among Us: 100 Faces of Art in Spartanburg, by Edward Emory and Stephen Stinson (2011); The Minutia of Visionaries: Experiments toward Social Evolution, by Erica Eaton and Tara Smelt (2010); and Still Home: The Essential Poetry of Spartanburg (2008).

From 2011-2016, Neely served as a dean, assistant professor and coordinator for studio art at Wofford College, where he played a key role in growing the college’s studio art minor. From 2005-2011, he worked to enhance the student experience at the college through his positions as executive director of the Success Initiative, director of project development for student affairs and director of residence life. During this time, Neely developed a number of innovative programs that have become models for other colleges.

A brother in the Monastic Order of St. Edward the Confessor since 2011, Neely is actively involved in the Episcopal Church. He volunteers as chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America – Palmetto Council Troop #11 and has served on the development committee of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. He is also a member of the Northside Development Corporation’s neighborhood committee and is a past board member of Piedmont Care, Inc., and the Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg.

Neely received a master of fine arts from Goddard College in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree in religion from Wofford College in 2002.


SMC Appoints Six New Members to Board of Trustees


From left to right: Andrew Babb, Jerry Gadsden, Carl Gibson, Catherine Gramling, Derrick Huggins, Darryl Owings


Spartanburg Methodist College recently welcomed six new members to its Board of Trustees. The appointments were made in June at the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of South Carolina.

Andrew Babb lives in Spartanburg. He is a 1988 alumnus of the college and a commercial real estate broker with NAI Earle Furman, LLC. He is also President and owner of Mid-South Management Company, Inc. and Crescent Holdings, LLC. The companies own and rent residential, commercial and vacation properties in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. As a businessman, Babb has been active in the revitalization of Spartanburg’s downtown. He also sits on several boards of directors, including Carolina Alliance Bank, Glassock, Inc. and Spartanburg Day School. His family has supported SMC for many years.

Reverend Jerry Gadsden is pastor of Silver Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Spartanburg. Before coming to Spartanburg in 2015, he served as pastor for several United Methodist congregations around the state of South Carolina since receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University in 1989. He has also served on numerous boards and committees of the United Methodist Conference and of community organizations that address needs of seniors and of persons with disabilities. Gadsden is currently a member of the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance and is a life member of the NAACP.

Catherine Gramling lives in Gramling, SC. She is a lifelong United Methodist, a former public school teacher, and an active community volunteer. She has many family ties to SMC. Her mother, former Congresswoman Liz Patterson, was a four-term SMC trustee, as was her father-in-law, John Gramling, II. She is the granddaughter of Olin Johnston, who graduated from SMC and went on to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

Derrick Huggins serves as vice president of facilities and transportation at the University of South Carolina where he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of housekeeping, landscaping, preventative maintenance and warehouse operations. Huggins is involved with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Diversity Leadership program and is a member of Journey United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Darryl Owings serves as superintendent of Spartanburg County School District 6. In addition to his work in the school system, Owings has served on numerous boards and committees. He currently serves is a member of the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) board, the Clemson LIFE Advisory Board, and the South Carolina ACT State Organization Council. He is also a member of the Liberty Fellowship Class of 2008.

Joseph “Carl” Gibson will serve as the 2016 Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. A 2014 graduate of SMC, he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in music at Furman University. As a student at SMC, Gibson was awarded the college’s Trustee Medal.

SMC board members serve a term of three years and are eligible to serve up to four consecutive terms. All must be approved by the South Carolina United Methodist Conference.

In addition to the newly elected trustees, the following board members were re-elected to serve additional three-year terms: Rev. Mary V. Teasley, Phinnize J. Fisher, Marianna Habisreutinger; Ray Lattimore, John Ramsey, and James Fletcher Thompson.

The board also recently elected new officers for the 2016-2017 year: James Thompson, Chair; Kathy McKinney, Vice Chair; and Ray Lattimore, Secretary.

A full listing of the Spartanburg Methodist College Board of Trustees is available here.


Kirk Hansen appointed to SMC faculty


SMC is excited to announce that Dr. Kirk Hansen has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as professor of History. Hansen, who completed his doctorate in history from the University of Dundee in Scotland in 2015, has been employed at SMC as an adjunct faculty member since January.

Outside of the classroom, Hansen’s research interests focus on the experiences of Scottish Jews in World War I. In Spartanburg, he plans to pursue similar research with local minority communities. At SMC, he’ll teach courses focused on U.S. and European history to undergraduate students.

Hansen earned master’s (2009) and bachelor’s (2007) degrees in history from Bob Jones University.


SMC Welcomes Dr. Jill Coyle to Faculty



Dr. Jill Coyle has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as Professor of English. Coyle, an award-winning poet and essayist, served the college as a Visiting Professor from 2014 to 2015 and as an adjunct member of the faculty in 2016.

“Jill’s diverse academic interests and professional experience allow her to bring a creative approach to teaching English composition,” said Dr. Anita K. Bowles, vice president for academic affairs. “Her knowledge of classical studies brings a cultural and historical perspective to the material assigned to students and introduces them to a new, more versatile way of thinking.”

Coyle received her doctorate in classical studies from Duke University in 2002. She returned to school and completed a master’s degree in British and American literature at North Carolina State University in 2013. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a bachelor’s degree in Classics in 1996.

Welcome, Professor Coyle!


Dr. Michael Burriss Joins SMC Faculty


Spartanburg Methodist College is excited to welcome Dr. Michael Burriss as Professor of Spanish. Michael brings 10 years of teaching experience in secondary and higher education settings to the position, as well as an intimate knowledge of Spanish culture gained from extensive travel and living abroad experiences.

Michael’s teaching interests include El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (“The Way of St. James”), a historic 500-mile pilgrimage to the tomb of the apostle St. James in northwest Spain. He’s completed the Camino three times.

Michael received his Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of Georgia in 2013. He completed a Master’s Degree in Spanish from Auburn University in 2008 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish from Erskine College in 2006.

Welcome, Professor Burriss!


“One Vision. One Spartanburg.” community event held at SMC June 14



The public is invited to attend the official presentation of the Spartanburg Community Assessment on Tuesday, June 14. “One Vision. One Spartanburg.” will be held in Gibbs Auditorium from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. The event is free; however, seating is limited so registration is required.


Read the original news release from the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce:

Spartanburg continues to keep moving forward, as the Spartanburg Vision Plan steering committee announces two opportunities that continue the efforts towards a unified community and economic development plan.

Last week, 28 delegates from across Spartanburg County – including representatives from the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Spartanburg Economic Futures Group, City of Spartanburg, and other organizations – embarked on an inter-city visit to Chattanooga, TN from May 19-21, 2016, as part of the community vision process.

“By the numbers, Chattanooga-Hamilton County is very similar to Spartanburg County. Like Spartanburg, the spirit of partnership and collaboration is alive and well in Chattanooga-Hamilton County,” said Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber. “We certainly don’t have all the answers and must continually seek new and innovative strategies. This, among many other reasons, is why we took a fact-finding trip to Tennessee. We could learn a lot from some of their economic development successes and many of their approaches could be easily duplicated here in Spartanburg.”

The research and strategic planning process of the Spartanburg Vision Plan is being led by Market Street Services, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, with a steering committee comprised of representatives from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, who are guiding this process to ensure that it lays a foundation that allows people and businesses to thrive. The six-phase process began in February 2016 and will last approximately nine months.

Market Street has already undergone four phases of the process, including Stakeholder Input and Community Assessment, with a community survey that resulted in over 3,100 responses. This is the third highest survey response rate on record for Market Street Services, who have done similar assessments for communities such as Austin, TX and Nashville, TN.

John Miller, CEO of Denny’s Corporation and one of the steering committee’s tri-chairs, stated: “We now have a clear understanding of the needs of Spartanburg County, and the information from the community assessment is important to the overall goal of having a defined vision and implementation plan. We would not have such critical data to move forward if not for the input of our dedicated community, and the steering committee is eager to share Market Street’s conclusions at the event on June 14.”



Dennis receives Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff Faculty Award



Dr. Litasha Dennis, Professor of English, is the 2016 recipient of the Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff Faculty Award. The award is given to a Spartanburg Methodist College faculty member who exemplifies outstanding professional qualifications and teaching ability. Dr. Dennis was presented with the award during the college’s Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 7.

Dennis was recognized for her deep commitment to her students and her outstanding ability to engage them in critical thinking through the use of masterful questioning and discussion strategies, says Dr. Ann Bowles, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “She has a wonderful way of instilling the belief in each student that they can accomplish their goals,” she said. “As an adviser, coach and mentor to her students, as well as a teacher, Litasha works right alongside each and every one of them.”

The Huff Award includes an $800 stipend for further study, travel for professional purposes or to defray the cost of publication expenses for scholarly work.

In 1970, Dr. A. V. Huff, Jr., a former SMC Board of Trustees member and a retired faculty member of the History Department at Furman University, along with his wife, Kate, established the endowed award in memory of his parents, Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff.

Dennis, who was awarded tenure by the college this spring, received her doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2005. She received master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English from Winthrop University in 1998 and 1996, respectively.


Hard Work Makes Clemson Dream A Reality

Growing up with ten brothers and sisters might sound like chaos to many, but for sophomore Brett Pucetas, a full house kept things fun.

“It was always interesting,” Pucetas says. “Up until the 9th grade, all us boys lived upstairs. We called it the ‘Bunkhouse’ because we had a bedroom with three sets of bunk beds.”

Pucetas was adopted by his parents, Marsha and Randy, when he was just two weeks old – they’re the only family he’s ever known. In addition to their six biological children (five boys and one girl), the Pucetas family also includes Brett, his two adopted sisters and two adopted brothers. The children range in age from 31 to 10.

In the Pucetas household, education is important. So are sports. Pucetas’ parents and his brothers all play high school and college sports, and as a boy, he dreamed of following in their footsteps.

“I grew up with my heart set on playing sports at Clemson,” he said. “Starting in the seventh grade, I played soccer and football, and I started wrestling in the ninth grade.”

When it was time to go to college, Pucetas had a solid grade point average, but didn’t have the standardized test scores to qualify for entry into Clemson. It was a hard knock, and he was unsure what to do next. When SMC offered him a place on the wrestling team, he accepted, but wasn’t sure it was the right decision until after his first semester.

“I love it here now,” he said. “The students are all so close-knit. It’s really like a family.”

His parents work hard to provide for their large family, and they wanted to instill that work ethic in their children, Pucetas says. “My mom and dad pay for my tuition, but they expect all of us to pay for our living expenses during school.”

Pucetas paid his housing costs by working as a sous chef in a local restaurant, sometimes getting in 35-40 hours per week. After his shifts ended at nine or ten p.m., he’d hit the library until midnight most nights. And he managed to maintain a 3.5 GPA.

“I was able to balance it all because working and wrestling made me careful about managing my time,” he said.

After two years and plenty of hard work, Pucetas’ dream of attending Clemson is coming true. This fall, he’ll enroll as a junior transfer student and major in special education.

“I did a lot of service learning in high school, and I always enjoyed working with the special needs students and helping with the Special Olympics,” he said. “I’d like to manage or direct a center that provides services for people with disabilities.”

On Saturday, as Pucetas walks across the stage to accept his SMC diploma, his entire family will be in the audience cheering him on. From there, he’ll spend the summer working his restaurant job, as well as another job with a local pest control company to save money for Clemson. This fall, he and his brother, John, who will be a sophomore at Clemson, plan to get an apartment together.

“I’m really excited about the fall,” Pucetas said. “And I know that without coming to SMC, Clemson wouldn’t have happened for me.”