Encouraged to make a difference by using their gifts and talents to glorify God, 281 North Greenville University students had their degrees conferred during Spring Commencement ceremonies Friday evening at Younts Stadium in Tigerville.
“The only chance we have to give a glimpse of glory to God on this earth is to do something through Him that causes people to ask ‘why?’” said Furman Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Richey, a 2006 summa cum laude graduate of NGU, who delivered the university’s Commencement address.
“If you play it safe, you’ll never get there. This world needs people with conviction. We need courage. We need believers. We’re equipped to go make a difference because of the gifts God has given us, and He’s begging us to use them,” he said.
The ceremony, which concluded with a firework display, capped the academic year at the private university affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
“Congratulations to each of you on achieving this significant academic milestone,” NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr., said during his remarks. “It is our prayer that today’s Commencement will also be a commissioning as we send you out to be transformational leaders for church and society.”
A processional led by Faculty Marshal Dr. Gerald Roe, retiring professor of intercultural studies, opened the ceremonies. Following a welcome by President Fant, Dr. Brian Spearman, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, delivered the invocation.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we want to tell each and every one of you graduating today how excited we are for you,” Spearman told the graduates. “I encourage you to go out and be the world changers you were called to be. Each day live as you are supposed to live and look to God in everything you do.”
Graduating senior Jordan Pracht read passages from Jeremiah 29:11 and Colossians 3:17 before Richey addressed the graduates and guests. Richey has been at the helm of the Furman program for six years, guiding the Paladins to a 139-54 overall record. The .720 winning percentage ranks in the top 20 among all active Division I head coaches.
Richey opened his remarks with memories of his student days at NGU, referring to many campus traditions. He met his wife, the former Jessica Tingle, while both were NGU students. Her family’s connection to North Greenville began when both of her grandparents worked on the Tigerville campus. Her father, the late Jacks Berner Tingle, was a 1969 North Greenville graduate and later served as head of NGU’s advancement office. The university’s student center is named for the Tingle family.
Richey’s life-changing decisions at the university extended beyond meeting his future spouse.
“I made a convicted decision to chase a dream while I was at North Greenville,” he said. “I wanted to coach. I had a decent GPA, and I had a lot of people telling me to continue to pursue academia, go to grad school, or just do something normal. I just remember making that scary decision on campus, but I knew I wanted to utilize my gifts to impact people.”
The Furman men’s basketball team made headlines when the Paladins knocked off Virginia in the opening round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament in March. Richey said before his team earned the upset over the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, they had to experience plenty of adversity.
“You’ve heard about the victories. You’ve heard about the Virginia game. But some of you might not have heard about the Chattanooga game. About a year back, we were playing Chattanooga in the Southern Conference Championship and Furman hadn’t been to the Dance in 42 years. The game went into overtime and their guy throws up a 35-footer and it goes in. It looked like the streak was going to be broken, but instead it turned into a heartbreak. It was gut-wrenching and painful, but a year later, not only did we win the Southern Conference Tournament, but we got to go the NCAA Tournament and beat Virginia.”
Richey discussed having success and maintaining your faith.
“We are created for a purpose,” Richey said. “We’re not to be ships in the harbor. We have to go through the storm and the turbulent waters to endure and show God’s glory.”
Following conferring of degrees, graduates Joseph Wall Noyes and Caroline June Nelms led the singing of the Alma Mater, and Ansley Welchel, instructor of Communication at NGU, delivered the benediction.
Emilie Allen ‘23
For Emilie Allen, the walk across the stage at Younts Stadium on Friday evening at North Greenville University’s 2023 Spring Commencement was bittersweet.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions,” she said. “I’m excited to graduate and earn that accomplishment, and it means more getting to do it with some of my closest friends. But it is bittersweet. We’re leaving behind this time where we get to see each other every day, and have classes together, but that’s part of life. I’m excited for the steps that are coming next.”
Graduating with a degree in marketing and a minor in digital media, Allen is taking the next step in her career by accepting a full-time position at Bunnell-Lammons Engineering as the communications and marketing associate.
Allen is the second NGU graduate in her family, following her sister, Erin Allen, who earned a degree in business administration in December of 2021. The younger Allen, who has been playing volleyball since third grade, knew she wanted to find a school that would help her progress athletically and academically.
“I’d heard a lot of good things about the College of Business and Entrepreneurship from my sister,” she said. “Finding marketing and exploring the creative side of business, that was definitely right up my alley.”
Through classes with NGU marketing instructor Mollie A. Withers and Department of Marketing Chair Dr. David Riddering, Allen found her path.
“I learned so much that I didn’t even realize how well I was being prepared,” she said. “There have been so many things that have come up during this internship that I’d learned from one of my professors. Without their direction, I would not have been able to get into my internship at all.”
Allen concluded her volleyball career in the fall of 2022.
“It’s been an adjustment to find my place without volleyball,” she said. “It was difficult at first, but balancing athletics with academics prepared me for this next chapter.”
Allen offered some advice for those also pursuing a career in business or marketing.
“Pay attention and take notes,” she said. “When you’re taking a class, it can be like checking a box. I know I’ve done that. But looking back, I was glad I took notes and learned something that I’m actually using in my career.”
North Greenville University is creating a new home for the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, as renovations continue at the university’s historic administration building. The $9.7 million project will provide classrooms, faculty offices, and gathering spaces on the Tigerville Campus, as well as a suite of offices for NGU’s senior leadership. To learn more about the project, which is expected to reach completion in the fall, visit go.ngu.edu/donnan-cobe.
About North Greenville University
NGU offers more than 125 areas of study across certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and early college opportunities. Online. In-person. At our main campus in Tigerville, SC, the Tim Brashier Campus in Greer, SC, or several educational centers around the U.S. One university, many locations. Every day. Epic. Learn more.