For alumni and friends
of the university

Then, Now, Next



Some years ago, I (Austin) interviewed a young man for employment in a small business we owned. He had attended a university, and I assume he had received an adequate education in his chosen field. I asked him for the name of a professor or staff member he worked with whom I could contact for a reference. 

He could not name a single adult who would know him personally at the university. 

Our Furman experience was very different, and we were greatly enriched by the opportunities provided to us as students. We knew and benefitted from the investment of many adults in our student years at Furman, and we received excellent educations. We want that opportunity for many other young people. We are pleased that two of our children, Manning Connors ’92 and Kathryn Connors Johnson ’01, have graduated from Furman as well. 

Additionally, friendships made at Furman continue to be meaningful and enduring, adding richness to our lives. While the world has changed dramatically, there is a kind of permanency and grounding in the mutual respect and caring among those who shared the Furman experience. This has been extended for us as we became residents of The Woodlands at Furman this summer. 

Our professional lives, primarily in the broad fields of education and the not-for-profit world, have not allowed us to be major Furman donors. However, we have found satisfaction in being regular givers for 42 consecutive years. Beyond our giving to our church, Furman has been at the top of our annual list of financial contributions. We respond out of the gratitude we feel for the opportunities that have been ours and the potential to impact the lives of others. 


Betty Simmons Connors ’65 is a retired educator and Austin Connors Jr. ’64 is retired from a career that included work in education, government and the not-for-profit world. They live at The Woodlands at Furman in Greenville, South Carolina. 


Adrian Gonzalez headshot photoNow


When I first started Pathways, I was a little hesitant; I wasn’t sure if it would benefit my learning and my college experience. I had been placed into it randomly, but I decided to stick with it and see what happened. In retrospect, the first year of Pathways provided me with structure in an otherwise unstructured and unpredictable first-year experience. 

The course allowed us to interact with others, develop skills to navigate social and academic spaces in college, and find within us the values we held most important. Being more secure with myself allowed me to become more open to new ideas and get out of my comfort zone. I got closer with the students in my Pathways class, compared to my other classes, and I am still friends with many of them going into my junior year at Furman. 

In my sophomore year, I started to find my rhythm at Furman. As I grew more confident socially, Pathways gave me the resources to become comfortable in my academic interests and pursue the right paths to explore them further. 

As part of a Pathways assignment, I was connected with Furman alumni for an informational interview. Speaking with Furman alumni who work in my various fields of interest impacted my knowledge of post-grad opportunities. The advice and experiences they shared continue to influence my plans after Furman. Through Pathways’ in-depth focus on Clifton Strengths, I was able to see how my strengths and natural talents influenced my life either consciously or unconsciously and how they complemented each other. 

My Pathways experience both eased my transition to college and provided me with resources to remain confident in any social, academic and professional community at Furman and beyond. I am excited to be stepping into the role of Pathways peer mentor, which will allow me to provide the same support that I benefited from to incoming students. 


Adrian González ’24 is a physics-applied mathematics major and a Pathways peer mentor. To learn more about Pathways, visit


Franklin Ellis headshot photoNext


The journey to living my purpose of teaching people to be better people by being better to people started at Coastal Carolina University when I began my career in student affairs as a resident assistant.

The spring semester prior to taking on the RA position, incoming staff were invited to participate in what was called oppression-reduction training. It was in this workshop that for the first time someone spoke to my lived experience as a young, Black, queer, dyslexic, non-Christian, middleclass, Southern, cisgender male.

This training was the catalyst that launched my career in inclusion and belonging. As a product of a military family, I had the opportunity to live overseas as well as across the United States. In this nomadic lifestyle, I encountered a diverse population, which continues to feed my passion for restorative work in healing intercultural divides.

In my role as the associate dean and director of the Center for Inclusive Communities, I am honored to be able to continue restorative inclusion and belonging work at Furman. I look forward to aiding in creating an inclusive campus culture that fosters belonging for all with a goal to be a driving force behind cultivating a sense of beloved community on Furman’s campus. When in beloved community, we allow for everyone to have room to be – room to be all of who they are in all their identities without hesitation, reservation or question.

Beloved community allows for there to be civil discourse and promotes the shared understanding that we remain engaged with those we are in discourse with until we gain not agreement but understanding of their perspective – or the resolution of the issue. Beloved community allows us all to exist in a space where we feel, think, believe and know that we can be comfortable and confident in who we are and what we believe, especially when our beliefs, identities and lived experiences are not in the majority. 

This year, the Center for Inclusive Communities at Furman will focus on four main areas in completing the work of creating beloved community at Furman: engagement, education, expansion and evaluation. 


Franklin Ellis was named associate dean and director of Furman’s Center for Inclusive Communities in Fall 2022.