SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy converse.edu, piece written by Bob Rose for Conference Carolinas) — When 23-year-old Margaret Moore arrived on the Converse campus as an associate instructor in 1973, the cost of gas was 40 cents a gallon. The average home cost $32,500 and a new car was priced at $3,200.
What’s more, Richard Nixon was the U.S. president, mired in the middle of the Watergate trial. And Pat Summitt had not yet even started her legendary basketball coaching tenure at Tennessee.
Fifty years later, much has changed at the picturesque school that features brick buildings and architecture from the 19th Century. But one thing remains the same: Margaret Moore is still at Converse.
Currently an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Social Science and president of the Faculty Senate, Moore has run the gamut of coaching and administering sports at Converse during the past five decades.
It may seem like everywhere you turn on campus, there’s Margaret Moore. She’s been an associate professor, chairperson of the P.E department, coached four intercollegiate sports teams, served as athletic director and headed up the school’s intramural program. And if that were not enough, she also has chosen to audit undergraduate classes at Converse on almost a yearly basis, and has worked as a swim instructor in past summers.
Perhaps the first human cloning happened at Converse years ago. How else can anyone explain all the positions and hats Moore has worn as a one-woman dynamo?
For Moore, who was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, it started in Morganton, North Carolina, a small city (17,000) and county seat of Burke County about 75 miles northwest of Charlotte where she was moved when she was five and was then raised. Her mother was a homemaker while her father was a vice president for Shadowline, a national women’s lingerie company.
After earning a bachelor of arts degree in history and secondary education at Queens in Charlotte and a master’s in physical education at the University of Georgia, Margaret was hired by Converse College as a Health and P.E. teacher and to coach tennis and field hockey at the all-women’s college (Note: men were first admitted to the school in 2021 and the school name was changed to Converse University).
“Prior to my arrival, Converse women were competing through the P.E. department,” Moore said. “They would play Duke, North Carolina, Appalachian State but there were no divisions or much structure. The head of the P.E Department was essentially the athletic director.”
Beyond assuming the job of athletic director, Moore became the women’s head coach for tennis and field hockey that inaugural year. Within the next four years, Converse added basketball and volleyball, which she also coached.
Yes, you read that right. Margaret was a health and P.E. professor, head coach of four sports and was the women’s AD. Not bad for a young woman who was just starting her professional career.
“I was coaching four sports and I was married,” Moore said, shaking her head. “There were no scholarships back then. Title IX was passed and most everyone was still trying to figure it out. We were an all-women’s college, so it really didn’t matter.”
Oh, there’s more. In her spare time, Moore also served as coordinator of intramural activities and an advisor for the Converse Athletic Association, plus audited classes in German, history and other subjects on almost a yearly basis to further her own education.
She continued in many of the aforementioned capacities, off and on, for literally decades at Converse. She served as the official athletic director for 15 years (1992-2006), coordinator of women’s athletics for 19 years (1973-92), coordinator of intramural activities for 21 years (1973-82, 1998-2008), chair of the health and physical education department for 10 years (2001-2010), advisor to the Converse Athletic Association for 35 years (1973-2007), head tennis coach for 23 years (1973-94, 2001-02), head field hockey coach for 11 years (1973-83), head volleyball coach for 16 years (1973-87) and head basketball coach for nine years (1973-81).
However, like life, Moore’s athletic journey at Converse was not a straight line. She faced numerous challenges along the way. After the 1982 field hockey season, Converse dropped the program (Note: field hockey returned to Converse in 2017) due to travel constraints and lack of area competition. Field hockey had been her baby, so she was understandably crushed.
“That was quite a blow,” she admitted. “I had put in so much work to establish the program and all of sudden, it was gone.”
Then in 1994, the Executive Board of the Converse Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the overall athletic program, starting immediately due to financial reasons. While new President Dr. Sandra Thomas tried to soften the blow by proclaiming that the college would sponsor “the nation’s finest intramural and fitness program” led by Moore, the announcement was universally criticized by almost all constituents of the school.
“My biggest complaint was how they handled it,” said Moore. “I was not involved in any of the discussions. I remember them (the administration) telling me by saying, ‘are you sitting down?’”
It never crossed her mind to quit and leave the college when athletics was dropped.
“I was still teaching and felt a loyalty to Converse because I had invested so much,” she said. “I still really enjoyed the students, and it ended up being a blessing in that it freed up more to spend time with my daughters, who were 10 and 12 at the time.”
Almost immediately, the student body voiced their displeasure and subsequently a consulting firm recommended that the athletic program be reinstated in the fall of 1998. Moore was once again appointed athletic director. Since the program had gone dark for four years, Margaret was faced with a virtual re-launch of athletics, which required many layers of challenges and requirements.
Among them were the re-establishment of tennis, volleyball, cross country basketball and the additions of cross country and soccer as scholarship sports, the hiring of new coaches, and the early planning to transition from NAIA to NCAA status which eventually resulted in Converse becoming a member of Conference Carolinas in 2007.
Moore also saw Converse go through a nickname change when they went from being called the Converse All-Stars (1973-2007) to the Converse Valkyries (2008-present day).
But Margaret’s accomplishments went well beyond longevity. A Hall of Fame dual-sport athlete (basketball, tennis) at Queens, she steered Converse’s tennis team into the nation’s Top 20 for three consecutive years (1991-94) and was named NAIA District Six Tennis Coach of the Year in 1988, 1992 and 1993. Moore also enjoyed a highly-decorated career as a tennis player during various periods of her life, ranking among the top five players in the state of South Carolina for her age group on numerous occasions and as a regional all-star field hockey player.
“Margaret, aka Coach Moore to most on our campus, has truly seen it all throughout her time at Converse,” pointed out Converse Director of Athletics Jenn Bell. “The history of Converse Athletics is an incredible story to tell, and the best part is the key role Margaret has played in our story, from the day she walked onto our campus to today. While we haven’t worked closely on a lot of projects in my short time at Converse, I am so grateful for her continued leadership, and I know our faculty, staff and students appreciate her commitment to not only our student-athletes but our entire campus.”
So, how does Moore explain having only one employer for 50 years?
“Good question,” she smiled. “I really don’t have an answer. There were so many times when I would get mad and my husband just said ‘leave.’ But I love this place and the hard times have been worth it.”
Margaret and her husband, Dana, almost equaled her tenure at Converse, having been married for 41 years before he passed away in 2019. They first met in 1975 at a two-week American Red Cross Aquatic School in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She was teaching lifeguard training through Red Cross Aquatics while he was a canoe instructor.
Dana, a Vietnam U.S. Air Force veteran from Beltsville, Maryland, paid close attention to the young professor from Converse.
“I think he noticed my beautiful smile,” said Margaret, tongue in cheek. “Soon after that, we began a long-distance romance. He and I just immediately clicked.”
Ironically, the lovebirds both discovered that they attended the University of Georgia at the same time and knew a lot of the same people, yet their paths had never crossed. They married after a two-year courtship and eventually had two daughters, Meagan and Brennan, who are both elementary school teachers today in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Sadly, Dana was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain cancer that also struck down U.S. Senator John McClain and Beau Biden, son of President Joe Biden. He succumbed to the disease five years ago.
“My fellow professors and administrators at Converse were so nice and supportive during a very tough time when I lost my husband,” Moore confided. “I’ll never forget their kindness.”
One of those colleagues was Joe Dunn, a 78-year-old professor of history and politics who almost dates back as far as Moore at Converse. He’s celebrating his 48th year at the university and still remembers a young Margaret Moore auditing a course he was teaching on the Vietnam War.
“I got to know her through that class,” Dunn said. “She was very young and seemed to be the coach of everything. She was an athletic woman. Her last name then was Sakowski and everyone called her Coach S. All the old alums still call her that!”
Dunn still marvels over Moore’s hunger to continue learning.
“Margaret is the ultimate professor. She wants to learn new things and still sits in on courses about history, politics, language or whatever. We also co-authored a published article on the History of Converse Athletics. She’s amazing.”
For Moore, it’s no big deal.
“I find time in between classes,” she shrugged. “If I’ve got a free hour, I’ll stop by and sit in a class. The professors are my friends, so I just ask them, ‘do you mind if I audit your class?’ I want to keep learning about things that interest me.”
Beyond their families living only three blocks away from each other in Spartanburg and their children growing up together, Dunn feels a special kinship with Moore.
“We’ve seen it all,” he said. “We’ve been through numerous presidents. We share the same views on most issues. We both believe in the nature of this institution and are highly committed to a liberal arts college. I love the place, the students. I’m sure Margaret feels the same way.”
In her unique position, it’s Moore’s past experience that continues to guide Converse to this very day.
“What will happen is I’ll be in a meeting and someone suggests something, I will tell them what happened in the past here and whether we really want to do that again. It’s that institutional memory that I can always offer.”
Margaret also finds it quite rewarding when she and her past students’ cross paths.
“Being the athletic director seems like a lifetime ago, but there are times when I’ll see a former student in a local restaurant or store, and I’ll hear somebody yell, ‘Coach Moore! Coach Moore!’ Their experience at Converse served them well. We’ve got doctors, lawyers, college professors and successful people in many areas. It’s always nice to reconnect.”
A member of the Board of Trustees and a 1975 graduate, Sandy Russell Hartnett is truly appreciative of all Moore has meant to Converse.
“Since the day that Margaret Sakowski Moore walked onto the campus of Converse (College) University, I have known her,” Hartnett said. “Margaret coached field hockey, basketball, volleyball and tennis during my junior and senior years at Converse and eventually she became the athletic director. The betterment of the students, faculty and Converse has always been of the upmost importance to Margaret. Fifty years at Converse shows her commitment. Well done, Coach Moore!”
While there are no official records, it would seem that Dunn and Moore can boast the longest tenures in Converse history. And Dunn, who plans to retire in 2025 when he turns 80 and celebrates his 50th year at Converse, is very proud of that fact.
“We’ve been here longer than anyone,” he said. “We are Converse University!”
Moore, who is 73, has no plans to step down in the near future. With all of her current duties and future classes to audit, she appears too busy to retire.
Credit to Bob Rose for Conference Carolinas
Bob Rose is a longtime sports public relations executive who has worked for the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, the NFL Cardinals, Cal, Stanford and other organizations. Bob works with Associate Commissioner for External Relations Brian Hand and the entire Conference Carolinas office to help tell the stories of the tremendous student-athletes, coaches and administrators in Conference Carolinas.