TIGERVILLE, S.C. (BP) — Gene C. Fant Jr. has been named the eighth president of North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.
Fant, 53, has served as provost and chief academic officer since 2014 at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was introduced as “God’s man” for North Greenville by trustee chairman Bill Tyler at a Feb. 23 news conference at the NGU campus following a unanimous trustee vote.
Tyler said the board selected Fant after evaluating nominations and applications from more than 60 qualified candidates in a search process assisted by CarterBaldwin Executive Search in Atlanta.
Fant succeeds Jimmy Epting, who stepped down after 23 years as North Greenville’s president in January 2015. Randall Pannell, NGU academic vice president, served as interim president the past two years.
“This is an historic time in the life of North Greenville,” Tyler said while introducing Fant, in “taking a Christ-centered institution with a very strong foundation and moving it into the future in order to equip students to go into the world and impact the Kingdom.”
Fant said he was attracted to NGU by its history of producing transformational leaders for the church and society.
“Throughout my career, everywhere I go, I run into people whose lives have been touched by North Greenville University and its alumni, students, faculty, coaches and staff,” said Fant, who will assume his duties at NGU June 1. “I hope to build on that solid foundation of influence and extend it into new areas.
“North Greenville’s Christ-honoring heritage has impacted our region and indeed the world since its beginning, and I look forward to leading the university as we follow God’s calling on our shared lives.”
In describing himself as “the son of a Baptist pastor and the grandson of a Baptist pastor,” Fant said it is his “absolute rock-solid belief” that state Baptist conventions and their affiliated institutions have both a synergistic relationship and a stewardship relationship. “[W]e as an institution have a responsibility to the people who have sacrificed and … worked to do things … as a high and holy calling.”
At Palm Beach Atlantic, Fant has led the campus in a renewed commitment to a Christ-first mission, joining Christian dedication to academic excellence. About a dozen new academic programs have been launched in healthcare, business and science, and he was instrumental in forming the Titus Center for Franchising, which benefits from a $1.5 million startup gift.
PBA President William M.B. Fleming Jr said, “The Palm Beach Atlantic University community applauds Gene’s selection as president and will continue to pray for him and Lisa as they lead NGU onward and bring an inexpressible joy to their new university family.”
Prior to his PBA service, Fant, a native of Laurel, Miss., spent two decades teaching and serving in leadership roles at three Southern Baptist-affiliated schools — Union University in Jackson, Tenn., Mississippi College in Clinton and William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss.
At Union, where he taught English starting in 2002, Fant rose through the ranks to become executive vice president for academic administration and dean of the faculty, where he co-led the development of Union’s 2015 Strategic Plan, coordinated the academic transition of the athletics program from NAIA membership to NCAA Division II and was involved in the rebuilding of the campus following a devastating tornado in 2008.
David Dockery, president of Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Union University president emeritus, described Fant as “a faithful Christ-follower, an ambassador for Christ-centered higher education, a reflective Christian thinker and a churchman of the first order.”
At Mississippi College, Fant was an assistant professor of English and, earlier, an instructor at William Carey University.
Fant earned a bachelor of science degree from James Madison University, a master of arts in English from Old Dominion University and a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary — the third generation of his family to graduate from the seminary. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree in English literature and a post-doctoral master of education at the University of Southern Mississippi. Additionally, he holds a certificate in educational management from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
He is a writer, speaker and lay preacher. He has written or contributed to nearly a dozen books and many academic and press articles. He serves as a contributing blogger at The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Vitae” and at First Things’ “First Thoughts.” His most recent book is “The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide” (Crossway). Other books include “God as Author: A Biblical Approach to Narrative” (Broadman & Holman Academic, 2010) and “Expectant Moments: Devotions for Expectant Parents” with his wife Lisa (Zondervan, 1999).
Since 2004, Fant has been involved in the Impact 360 Institute, a year-long gap year program in biblical worldview and leadership development launched by John and Trudy Cathy White, daughter of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy. In addition to being one of the program’s original curriculum designers, Fant serves on the board of directors.
“Gene Fant believed in the mission of Impact 360 long before other Christian educators, and he was instrumental in helping us bring other higher education professionals to appreciate the value of a gap year between high school and college,” Larry Cox, executive director of Chick-fil-A’s Life Shape Foundation, said. “He is the type of leader who will motivate the young men and women of North Greenville University to think Christianly about their lives and how God can use them to integrate faith, learning, and living.”
The Fants are parents to 18-year-old twins Ethan and Emily. Fant’s father, Gene C. Fant Sr., is a retired pastor, and his mother, Mona Faith Fant, is a syndicated radio host, songwriter and country-gospel artist. He is the grandson of the late Thomas Edison Fant, an evangelist and pastor.
While growing up, Fant and his family moved from Mississippi to New York, where his father planted nine churches in seven years. His father also pastored in California, Virginia and Tennessee.
North Greenville University was established in 1892 as a Baptist academy for northern Greenville County high school students. Today, as a liberal arts university, NGU offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 35 academic programs and serves more than 2,500 students. North Greenville is one of three universities, along with Anderson and Charleston Southern, with ties to the South Carolina Baptist Convention.