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New Converse University president dies in SC bicycle crash
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New Converse University president dies in SC bicycle crash

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SPARTANBURG — A university president in South Carolina died Wednesday in a bicycle wreck less than a month after he started his new job.

Jeffrey H. Barker, 64, was president at Converse University in Spartanburg, which planned a gathering at 1 p.m. Thursday to remember Barker and ring the campus bell 20 times in his honor.

Barker was riding a bike on a street in Spartanburg when he ran off the road about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday and was killed, state troopers said.

The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office confirmed his identity, but did not give a cause of death.

Barker worked at Converse University for 20 years and planned to retire as provost in 2021, but school leaders persuaded him to stay on as president after the previous leader left for a different school. He took over as president at the beginning of July.

The school of about 1,400 was founded as a women’s college in 1890 and changed its name to Converse University on July 1 as it now accepts both men and women.

The school is stopping all activities on campus for two day so students, professors and others can mourn.

“He loved Converse, and his love for us brought him out of his planned retirement to serve us as president. Because of our love for him, we feel his loss personally and deeply, and we will greatly miss him,” the university said in a statement.

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