TIGERVILLE, S.C. (BP) — North Greenville University’s board of trustees has announced that NGU President James B. Epting is taking sabbatical leave for the 2015 spring semester, with plans to retire at the end of the school’s fiscal year in May.
“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Epting for his 23 years of service and thankful for the miracles God has performed at the university under his leadership,” trustee chair Beverly Hawkins said.
Epting’s tenure began in 1991 when he was named the seventh president of North Greenville College, then a two-year institution in Tigerville, S.C. The school’s closure seemed imminent, with an all-time low enrollment of 329 students. Since Epting took office, the school has prospered, celebrating its 18th consecutive record enrollment this past fall with 2,632 undergraduate, graduate and online students.
Epting directed the coeducational liberal arts institution through two capital campaigns, resulting in construction of more than $40 million in capital projects without burdening the school with building debt. The Second Century Fund, originally set at $6 million in 1992, was later increased to $12 million and surpassed three and a half years later. The university currently is at the close of its second five-year GIFT God Capital Campaign. The campaign’s original goal was set at $25 million, which was surpassed in just two years and increased to $42.7 million. With one year remaining, the campaign total has reached more than $42 million.
Under Epting’s leadership, North Greenville began offering four-year degrees in 1994 and attained university status in 2005. Its graduate programs began at the T. Walter Brashier Graduate School in 2006, which added a doctoral degree in 2012. The school currently offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and online degree programs. An additional satellite location opened in 2014 at the Tim Brashier Center in Greenville, housing the university’s MBA program.
Epting, on NGU’s website, describes the university, which was established in 1892 as a Baptist academy for high school students, as “committed to quality education in a biblically sound, Christ-centered environment. All of our faculty and staff are Christians and are allowing Jesus Christ to make the difference through them on and off of our campus.”
From an academic standpoint, Epting noted, “We have approximately 75 percent of our faculty with their doctorates and our student-to-faculty class size is 15 to 1. We have students who are becoming doctors, lawyers, ministers, missionaries, journalists, teachers, business men and women, musicians and many other occupations. We strive for every student to grow stronger spiritually, socially, mentally and physically.
“Most importantly, we have over 300 students each year accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Also, we are always ranked as one of the top schools for student summer missionaries among all public and private schools in the nation. … [A] North Greenville University education is more than just going to class. It is about the heart as well as the mind. When the student comes here, we want each one to either get saved for the first time in their life, or if they’re already saved, to grow stronger in their walk and graduate.”
Voicing gratitude for the support NGU receives, Epting said the university is prospering “because of the financial assistance of the South Carolina Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program and the faithfulness of our many alumni and friends in their giving to the university.”
NGU trustees have named chief academic officer Randall J. Pannell as the university’s spokesperson during this interim time. The board is in the process of appointing an interim president and also a search committee to begin a national search for NGU’s eighth president in its storied 123-year history.
Pannell told the Greenville News that Epting had blended academia and faith “in a remarkable way” at the university. “It’s easy to do one or the other but it’s very difficult to do both,” Pannell told the newspaper.