Leadership for Church & Society

Office of the President

Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. is the eighth president of North Greenville University. He is also a leader in Christian higher education and a prolific writer.

Since arriving at NGU in June 2017, Fant has prioritized rethinking the university’s organizational chart and encouraged the graduate school to be innovative in imagining new programs. Fant’s other priorities have included strengthening NGU’s academic programs and residential life. Under his leadership, NGU celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Meet the President

As early as second grade, Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. said he wanted to become a college professor. So far, he’s held not only the position of professor, but also almost every other academic university position, too. And in February 2017, North Greenville University named him its eighth president after a nearly year-long process led by Carter Baldwin Executive Search.

  • Southern Accents, Burr Cuts and Soapy Toothbrushes

    Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. was born in Laurel, Miss., where his grandfather preached on one side of town and his father on the other. When Gene was four years old, his father felt called to missions and moved the family to Upstate New York to plant churches.

    In the Fant household, each week had a sort of routine. You went to school and took mandatory speech therapy lessons to get rid of your Southern accent on weekdays. You got a burr cut every Saturday night. You went to church in the Johnny Carson suit factory on Sundays. And, any day of the week, you had to soap up your toothbrush and brush your teeth out for cussing.

    Gene says he had a “salty sailor” mouth back then, even at the age of five. He’ll never forget one particular day when his dad caught him letting out a four-letter word.

    “We went upstairs for what I thought was going to be the punishment, and when we got to the bathroom, my dad soaped up his toothbrush. And he said, ‘I want you to know this is what Jesus did for you. He took the punishment that you deserved,’” Gene remembers.

    Gene took this illustration to heart. Afterwards, he and his father sat down to talk, and Gene prayed to receive Christ.

  • The Fant Family Band

    When Gene was 11, his family moved again, this time to Hampton, Va., where his father served as pastor at Ivy Memorial Baptist Church. At church, Gene was known for playing sports — and “going nuts” over calls he didn’t like, he admits — and playing music, too.

    When Gene’s dad travelled to preach revivals, the whole family would tag along to provide the worship. Gene played bass and his younger brother played guitar to accompany their gospel singer-songwriter mother, whose stage name was Mona Faith.

    After graduating from high school in 1981, Gene went on to earn his bachelor’s degree at James Madison University and, immediately following, his master’s degree at Old Dominion University. Right after that, he started teaching for Gloucester County Public Schools in Virginia.

    While waiting to take his TB test at new teacher orientation, Gene couldn’t help but notice the girl standing in line beside him: Lisa Williams.

    “I’m left handed. So I rolled up my right sleeve to get the tuberculosis test. She’s right handed, so she had, well . . . she had a sundress on,” he grins, then pauses. “I had my arm out. She had her arm out, and it was brown,” he says, holding out the word “brown.”

    “Okay, okay,” Lisa interrupts, blushing and moving the story along.

    She noticed him, too; of course, he was hard to miss, with his bright paisley print Ralph Lauren tie.

    “I liked his tie. It was the ’80s, so it was the age of those, you know, very colorful ties,” she laughs.

    At the orientation luncheon, they sat together. When Gene found out Lisa had graduated from Baptist university Carson- Newman, he became even more interested in her.

    Gene had just moved into town, but he already knew where to go to church the next Sunday: one of the local churches where his family band had played. To his surprise, he ran into Lisa again.

    “I walked into church on that Sunday morning, and there they all were: her and her cousin and all their friends,” he says. “I knew I had moved to the Promised Land at that point.”

    Gene and Lisa began dating right away. One year later, they got engaged, and then they married in 1989.

  • From “Professional Student” to Professor

    Gene’s family always loved reading and learning. That love stuck with him, and even after finishing two degrees, he wanted to go back to school. For the next several years, in fact, both Gene and Lisa continued to earn numerous degrees. Between the two of them, they hold seven.

    After nine years of marriage, the couple had twins: Ethan and Emily. Around this same time, many of Gene’s friends and colleagues began recommending that he should become a university president.

    “I’m the beneficiary of people who have seen things in me that I did not see in myself,” he reflects.

    As an example, he says his boss at the University of Southern Mississippi pulled him aside on his last day of work. He told Gene he thought he might become a university president one day, so they needed to talk.

    “It was actually a pretty scary conversation, because it’s a big job. At a Christian college, in particular, you bear the burden of making sure that the mission is not lost on your watch,” he says. “So I’ve tried to be intentional. I always want to do the job I’m doing, but prepare for whatever might come next.”

    After that conversation in 1995, Gene continued to advance in the ranks of the university. On the academic level, he has served as a graduate teaching fellow, assistant professor, full professor, department chair, college dean, vice president, and executive vice president. Most recently, he served as provost and chief academic officer at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA).

    But in some moments, he felt he couldn’t move forward. After serving as English Department chair at Mississippi College, for instance, he moved “not up but over” to the same position at Union University. Again, he later served as chief academic officer at Union then shifted to the same position at PBA.

    “I felt strongly that God would guide our steps, even if the steps were sideways rather than forward. I just wanted to be in positions where I could learn something new and serve others,” he says. “God’s been faithful to provide those places, and now it feels like they have prepared me specifically for NGU.”

  • Coming to NGU

    Gene first heard about NGU through classmates in seminary, and since then, he’s continued running into NGU alumni throughout his career. On his way home from a summer vacation in Asheville, N.C. in July 2016, he and his family decided to pay their first visit to the campus. Gene had heard the university was in search of a new president, but he hadn’t given the opportunity much thought.

    The Fants looped around NGU’s campus, admiring the mountain views, and then stopped to fill up at the Tigerville General Store. While there, they asked a youth pastor who was on campus for FUGE what he knew about NGU.

    “He said, ‘Oh, it’s a great school. They do a wonderful job of educating students and helping them to grow in Jesus,’” Gene recalls. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s a pretty good answer.’”

    Several of Gene’s friends encouraged him to apply for the position of president at NGU, which he did at the end of the summer. Gene says he and Lisa use a principle they learned from Henry Blackaby to make decisions together. They always ask two questions about an open opportunity: “Is God’s Spirit at work here?” and “Can I join in that effort?” Both felt that the answers were “yes” at NGU.

    Gene could tell the Presidential Search Committee had a unity he hadn’t seen before; this was one way he knew God was working. That same unity was evident when the Board of Trustees met on Feb. 23, 2017, and, in a unanimous vote, elected Gene to become NGU’s eighth president.

    At the official announcement press conference, Gene revealed that one of the most influential leadership books he’s read is “Renovate Before You Innovate” by Sergio Zyman. He foresees a period of great growth at NGU and plans to “fix any fissures or cracks in the foundation” before building on it. He’s very clear that he would like to fortify NGU’s programs to ensure the university sends out “transformational leaders” who are able not only to share the gospel, but also to use specific trades, such as economics and medicine, to minister.

    “If we produce hundreds of students each year who are engaged in the community and the local church, then we’ll have an opportunity to really impact the larger culture — not just in South Carolina and not just in the U.S., but around the world,” he says.

    As Gene and his wife move to the Greenville area from their home in Jupiter, Fla., their twins will finish a gap year with Impact 360 Institute in Atlanta, Ga., a worldview and leadership education foundation Gene has worked with since 2004.

    His term as president at NGU officially begins on June 1, 2017 — just in time for a special celebration of the institution’s 125th anniversary throughout the 2017-18 academic year.

    “NGU family should be excited just because God’s doing something. As humans, we don’t get to know what all of that is. Sometimes we don’t even get to know what that is in our lifetimes,” says Gene. “But when we know we’re about God’s business, when we know we’re doing something as a shared community, when we know we’re meeting the needs of others and changing the way they think about themselves and even about God, that’s a pretty exciting time to be in.”

  • At NGU

    Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. is the eighth president of North Greenville University. He is also a leader in Christian higher education and a prolific writer.

    Since arriving at NGU in June 2017, Fant has prioritized rethinking the university’s organizational chart and encouraged the graduate school to be innovative in imagining new programs. Fant’s other priorities have included strengthening NGU’s academic programs and residential life. Under his leadership, NGU celebrated its 125th anniversary.

    Previously, Fant served as the provost and chief academic officer at Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University in West Palm Beach, FL, for three years. Prior to his leadership at PBA, he held numerous academic positions both during his graduate work at the University of Southern Mississippi and, subsequently, Mississippi College and Union University.

    Born in Laurel, MS, and raised in Upstate New York and Virginia, Fant went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from James Madison University in 1984, Master of Arts in English from Old Dominion University in 1987, Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1991, Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Education in Educational Supervision in English from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1995, and Certificate in Educational Management from Harvard University in 2011.

    Fant is the author of four books: “The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide” (Crossway Academic, 2012); “God as Author: A Biblical Approach to Narrative” (Broadman & Holman Academic, 2010); “Expectant Moments: Devotions for Expectant Parents” (with Lisa Fant, Zondervan, 1999); and “Petrarchan Hagiography, Gender, and Subjectivity in Lady Mary Wroth’s ‘Pamphilia to Amphilanthus’” (The Graduate School, University of Southern Mississippi, 1995).

    He has also written chapters for several other books, including “Teaching the Humanities in a Christian Context” (edited by David Dockery, Crossway, expected 2018) and “Martin Luther and Contemporary Christian Higher Education” in “Reformation 500: How the Greatest Revival since Pentecost Continues to Shape the World Today” (edited by Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett, B & H Academic, 2017).

    In addition, Fant has contributed to “The Chronicle of Higher Education” since 2001. He previously contributed to First Things’ “Evangel” and “First Thoughts” segments. His work has also appeared in “Baptist Press” and other regional and national publications.

    Fant currently serves as vice chair for the board of directors and curriculum designer for Impact 360 Institute, a Christian gap year experience designed to prepare young adults to become Christ-centered servant leaders. Previously, he served as a member of the board of advisors for the institute.

    Fant is married to Lisa (Williams), who holds a master’s degree in English literature. Over the past 18 years, she has primarily worked as a stay-at-home mom to their twins: Ethan and Emily.  

Headshot Ken Hemphill.Dr. Ken Hemphill
Special Assistant to the President 
Distinguished Professor of Christian Studies 

Dr. Kenneth Hemphill was born April 17, 1948; in Morganton, North Carolina. His bride of 45 years is Paula Moore of Greenville, South Carolina. Ken is the proud father of three daughters: Kristina, Rachael, and Katherine, and is now the “Papa” of eight grandchildren. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University in 1972, Ken later earned three consecutive degrees; a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree from Cambridge University.

Hemphill’s ministry positions have ranged from youth ministry and pastorates to the Director of the Southern Baptist Center of Church Growth, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth for the Southern Baptist Convention, and currently the Founding Director of the Church Planting and Revitalization Center of North Greenville University. Dr. Ken Hemphill is the author of 38 books and many articles including: The Prayer of Jesus, The Names of God, EKG: The Heartbeat of God, Eternal Impact, You are Gifted, Live it up, and Velcro Church.  He is also the Founder and President of Auxano Press which publishes non-disposable curricula to assist churches in the revitalization process.


 

Headshot Angie Watson.Angie Watson
Administrative Assistant to the President

Angie has been employed at NGU since 1996 and currently serves as the Administrative Assistant to the President.  Prior to working in the president’s office, she spent 19 years as the Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Academics.

Angie is a 1985 graduate of Spartanburg Technical College with an associate’s degree in business in computer programming.  After graduating, she got married and started a family while continuing to work in business.  After 30 years, Angie returned to school to complete her bachelor’s degree and graduated in April 2018 from NGU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

She is married to Billy Watson, who also works at NGU.  They have two sons, Billy (an NGU alum) and John Michael.

Through 2021
Mr. Mike Hamrick
Robert Jackson, M.D.
Mr. Bill Knupp
K. Edwin Leap, II, M.D.
Mr. Pierce Williams
 
Through 2022
Mrs. Mitsy Ballentine
Mrs. Mandie Boyd, Vice Chair
Mr. Bo Davies
Mr. Richard McLawhorn
Dr. Michael Whitson
 
Through 2023
Mr. Lee Capell
Dr. Michael Hamlet, Chair
Mrs. Beverly Hawkins
Mr. Gary Holeman
Mrs. Laura Messer
 
Through 2024
Mrs. Bea Dillard Johnson
Mr. Lucian Lee
Mrs. Shana Sands, Secretary
Mr. Bill Tyler
Mr. Don Wilson
 
Through 2025
Mr. Ron Edwards
Mr. Keith Giddens
Mr. Ron Hewitt
Mr. Ike Johnson
Dr. Brian Spearman

Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. serves as North Greenville University’s eighth president. A nationally recognized thinker in literature, education, and theology, he holds five earned degrees and has written or contributed to over a dozen books. He and his wife Lisa have been married since 1989 and have adult twin children, Ethan and Emily.

Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. CV Full Version

President’s Schedule

  • October

    25-26: Homecoming Events

  • November

    30-1: Baptist Convention of New England (New Hampshire; spoke twice and Joyful Sound led worship the entire session)

    6-8: SACSCOC Off-Site Review Committee (Atlanta)

    9: Host home football game vs. Valdosta State

    10-12: South Carolina Baptist Convention (Spartanburg)

    14: Alumni Network Event (Charleston)

    18: Fant Forum event (Q & A with Students / SGA)

    19: Tennessee Baptist Convention

    24: Preached at FBC Icard NC

  • December

    5: Christmas Concert at First Presbyterian Greenville (welcome and introduction)

    8-11: SACSCOC Annual Meeting (Houston TX)

    12: Open House @ President’s House

    13: Fall Commencement

  • January

    24-26: Pastor’s Conference and alumni dinners (FBC Jacksonville FL)

    26-27: Video work with Impact 360 for recruiting and branding purposes (Pine Mountain GA)

    29 & 30: Inauguration of Pres. Jamie Dew at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (New Orleans)

  • February

    11-14: IACE Annual Meeting (Orlando)

    20: Board of Trustees Meeting

    21: Business Symposium

    26: Impact 360 Institute Board Meeting

    29: Bomar Family Stadium @ Ashmore Park dedication

  • March

    9-11: Christian Worldview Week with Bill Brown (Colson Center / Centurions) & Jonathan Morrow (Impact 360 Institute)

    24-26: SACSCOC ON-SITE @ NGU!!!

  • April

    3: Crusader Club Classic Golf Tournament

    9: Alumni Event (Columbia SC)

    14: Christian Ministry Scholarship Dinner

    16-17: ARC-PA ON-SITE @ NGU (TBC)!!!

    21: SCBC Executive Committee meeting

    21: Keynote Speaker at Christian Learning Center’s annual banquet (Greer SC)

    26029: Impact 360 Institute (annual lectures in worldview)

  • May

    1: NGU Spring Commencement

    3: Homecoming Preacher, FBC Cleveland SC

    14: Alumni Event @ Myrtle Beach

    15-17: Wilberforce Weekend @ Colson Center (Washington DC)

    18-19: Conference Carolinas President’s Meetings

  • June

    4: Board of Trustees

    7-11: Southern Baptist Convention (Orlando FL)

  • July

    8-11: Religious Liberty Summit

Publications

Professional Photography

A photo gallery is available for media presentations or public relations.


Contact the President

Office of the President
North Greenville University
P.O. Box 1892
Tigerville, SC 29688

864-977-7018
president@ngu.edu

Follow the President
Facebook: facebook.com/gene.fant
Instagram: @ngupresident

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