Tigerville, SC – North Greenville University held its spring commencement ceremony in perfect weather in Melvin and Dollie Younts Football Stadium on Thursday, May 7.
Over 4,000 spectators watched approximately 300 undergraduates and graduates receive their diplomas. Interim Executive Director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention Dr. Richard Harris was the keynote speaker.
“You graduates are a very elite group. This is a big deal,” said Harris. “You are graduating from North Greenville University, one of the finest Christian universities in America.”
“In the world’s population, only 6.7% have a university degree of any kind. In America, only 19% have bachelor’s degrees, 8% have master’s degrees, and only 2% have doctorate degrees,” said Harris.
Harris referenced Hebrews 12, which commands us to strip off everything that hinders us from fixing our eyes upon Jesus.
He shared many lessons that he learned through his life and ministry. Some of those were: maintain an attitude of excellence; live each day with an attitude of gratitude; be a learner; maintain personal integrity; study the Word of God.
“If you don’t remember anything else I’ve said today, at least remember to seek first the Kingdom of God,” Harris said.
Harris retired after twenty-nine and a half years of ministry with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board/North American Mission Board in 2010.
During his time with North American Mission Board (NAMB) he led mass evangelism efforts for sixteen years, church planting efforts for ten years, and NAMB missionaries for three-and-a-half years. Following his retirement, Harris served for a year as ambassador/liaison for the president of NAMB, to assist Dr. Kevin Ezell in the area of state relations.
Harris provided leadership to NAMB as Interim President from August 2009 to September 2010, served as Vice President of the Sending Missionaries Group from July 2007 to December 2010, where he gave leadership to group staff in the assignment of enlisting, processing, and commissioning missionaries and chaplains. He provided oversight to the direction of Mission Education, Church Relations, and Donor Development. He also served as an advocate for NAMB and its ministries to national agencies, state conventions, associations, churches, as well as a variety of trainings and missionary events.
A native of Kentucky, Harris is a graduate of Cumberland University in Williamsburg. He received a master’s degree at Eastern Kentucky State University in Richmond, and his Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also completed his Doctor of Ministry degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is married to Nancy Metcalf Harris and they live in Albany, Georgia.
At the conclusion of his address, Harris received an honorary Doctor of Christian Leadership from NGU Interim President, Dr. Randall Pannell, and Beverly Hawkins, chairperson of the NGU Board of Trustees.
In a special moment during the ceremony, the family of Brent Elrod was recognized.
On October 10, 2013, word reached the campus that a member of the NGU family had died in a hiking accident. Elrod, a student who was preparing for a lifetime of ministry, slipped and fell to his death at Wildcat Ranch Falls in Marietta, SC.
As a student, Elrod served with the Student Life staff. He was committed to serve the Lord by serving students out of a heart of love and compassion. He was a student leader at his home church, Mt. Airy Baptist Church, in Easley. As a university student, he served as youth minister at Pathway Church in Powdersville.
“His spirit lives in the lives of those he touched during his years at the university, many of whom are here today to share in this graduation ceremony. Brent had planned to be a part of this graduating class,” Pannell said.