Dr. Fant Officially Installed as President
Ten months and twelve days after he took office, Gene C. Fant Jr., was officially installed April 13, 2018, as the eighth president of North Greenville University.
What is an Investiture?
It’s defined as the “formal ceremony of conferring the authority and symbols of high office.” An academic tradition for centuries, investitures are held during a president’s first year in office and have the same pageantry as commencement or convocation. Today, universities view the ceremony as a chance to usher in a new era and celebrate as a community.
Close to 1,000 people gathered in Turner Chapel for Dr. Fant’s inauguration, which marked his formal investiture as the eighth leader in the university’s 125-year history. Among those in the audience: Dr. Fant’s family and friends, NGU students, faculty, staff, trustees, donors, alumni, and community members—as well as delegates from more than 22 universities.
In his remarks at the inauguration, NGU Board Chairman Bill Tyler, read the names of past presidents and said, “God had a mission for all these leaders of North Greenville University. Today, Gene Fant will be recognized and inaugurated. God has a mission for Dr. Fant. We’re here this morning to affirm that,” said Tyler.
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina Kevin L. Bryant said he was honored to be a part of this program and congratulated the university and Dr. Fant on behalf of the State of South Carolina.
Bryant said that Christian higher education contributes over $60 billion annually to the nation’s economy. “But, let’s talk about the real impact of Christian higher education. We’re born with a terminal disease called sin. Yet, there’s a cure,” he said. “The real impact of North Greenville University and the real impact of Christian education is the cure to that terminal sin, and that is eternal life through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Kady Floyd, president of NGU’s Student Government Association, welcomed Dr. Fant to campus on behalf of all students.
“This is a very important and exciting day that we have been looking forward to for many months; as we celebrate the past, present, and future of this great institution,” she said. “There’s something different about this school. Something that’s not quite like the others. Here, Christ makes the difference. As we celebrate the past 125 years, we also look forward to the future with much anticipation.”
Others bringing greetings were John W. White III, co-founder and president of Lifeshape; Toney C. Parks, senior pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Greenville; John D. Basie, provost of Erskine College and Seminary; and Gary L. Hollingsworth, executive director, treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Scripture passages were read from Proverbs 2 by English Department Chair Dr. Cheryl A. Collier and Colossians 3:1-17 by Palm Beach Atlantic University Campus Pastor Dr. Bernie A. Cuerto.
Dr. David S. Dockery, president of Trinity International University, began his address by congratulating the Board on their wise decision to call Fant to serve as the eighth president of this institution. “I am genuinely excited for the faculty, staff, students, and administrators who have and will have the privilege to learn from and serve with President Fant. I am hopeful for the days ahead.”
Dockery’s charge on this significant and historic day was built around a three-fold charge: personal, denominational, and institutional.
First, the personal. “North Greenville University is a warm-hearted, Christ-centered community. You [Fant] are blessed to be here,” he said. “Remain thankful for the wonderful and rare privilege to provide leadership for a faithful Baptist institution like this one. Remain thankful, retain your praise to God, and guard your heart.”
In serving as a university president for nearly a quarter of a century, Dockery said “Disappointments, hurts, set-backs will come. The relentless demands of the office are real and have been a source of burn-out for more than a few. So guard your heart, don’t become bitter, try not to keep score, and let disappointments and hurts go,” he said. “They [disappointments] will come, but work hard to let them go. Let your administration be marked by forgiveness. When you make mistakes, and yes, you will make mistakes; a forgiving, grace-filled approach to leadership will bring attention to the grace and forgiveness Christ has provided for all of us.”
He also told Fant to trust the Lord to help him make good and wise decisions, to choose carefully, to plan well, and to prioritize strategically.
Secondly, the denominational.
Dockery said one of the key aspects of Fant’s role as the president of the institution, is to represent North Greenville University to Baptists of this region and to represent Baptists of this region to the North Greenville community.
“You are located in the Carolinas. The home of the first Baptist church in the South, the home of the first two Baptist Associations in the South, and the home of the first state Baptist Convention in the South. When Southern Baptists decided to form its first free-standing seminary, it was launched in Greenville, SC in 1859. That former location is marked on the edge of downtown Greenville by street markers with the names of the four founders.
He encouraged Fant to embrace all of this marvelous history and to celebrate it often at this institution.
Dockery said the location of North Greenville University allows, “You to equally embrace both South and North Carolina and to serve Baptist churches in both states with faithfulness and effectiveness. It allows you to claim, connect with, and embrace what is symbolized by both of these Associations.”
“Build on the three-prong vision for Baptist education presented in 1856 by a South Carolina Baptist leader who connected the lofty ideas and ideals of accessibility, excellence, and faithful Christian orthodox. Those three markers which contain inherent tensions can be adapted for this day for those committed to the best of Baptist education.”
Thirdly, the institutional.
“Let us pray that God will guide this new administration to lead this institution to not be satisfied with merely imparting information, but rather to become a place that helps students to develop character and competence for effective service,” he said.
He said he trusts that North Greenville will continue to enhance its role as a place to help students develop authentic convictions, develop a Christian worldview that is sufficient for life’s questions and crisis, develop personal character which involves incarnating this worldview, and to develop genuine community here in this place, living out this worldview at North Greenville in company with mutually committed people.
“Thus, bringing about a holistic academic institution where academics, student life, residential life, campus ministries, the arts, athletics, all work together within the framework of a shared mission and a coherent worldview that will help to develop a Christian spirit of service to others. On this foundational framework, a God-honoring, grace-filled academic community will become a reality.”
Dockery closed his address by asking for God’s favor on Dr. Fant, and upon the First Lady.
“I join with many others who are gathered on this day to offer congratulations to Dr. Gene Fant, the eighth president of North Greenville University. May the Lord be with you on this day and in the days to come as you faithfully lead North Greenville University to its best days ever.”
Chairman Tyler presented President Fant and the First Family with a special proclamation to commemorate the day and to formalize his office as the eighth president of the university.
In the inauguration processional, Dr. Fant carried a Bible which belonged to North Greenville’s first president, Dr. M.C. Donnan, who served 1928-1962.
Tyler said to Fant, “You asked for the entire campus to read through the Bible this week. We’ve been reading from Genesis to Revelation at a special location near the Prayer Chapel. You love God’s word, you study God’s word; we believe you’ve been prepared to integrate God’s word into every space and activity of this campus.”
Tyler then presented Fant with the inaugural Bible, a Holman Christian Standard Version and official Bible of the Southern Baptist Convention, as a symbol of the foundation upon which NGU stands.
“Please accept this Bible as a token of our love for you and our desire that you will make it the foundation of all that you seek to do among us as our leader,” Tyler said.
Tyler, Dockery, and Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, president emeritus of the University of Southern Mississippi, presented President Fant with the University’s President’s Medallion and Chain of Office, the office symbol of the Office of the President.
Ron Edwards, trustee and presidential search committee member, then offered a prayer of commitment.
Be Relentlessly Optimistic
Dr. Fant thanked Dr. Lucas, Dr. Dockery, Chairman Tyler, family, and friends, and expressed what it meant to receive the symbols of office from the people who have encouraged, mentored, and helped him prepare for this time.
“As we celebrate our 125th Anniversary and we see all that has happened in the past, the one thing I constantly come back to is that the past is always the prelude for the future,” Fant said. “As Christians, we are to be relentlessly optimistic. Relentlessly optimistic because of the Gospel and because of the hope we have. So, when people ask why we are hopeful, we have the ability and opportunity to give an accounting of the difference that Christ has made in our lives.”
Fant says he wants the institution to claim the optimism of the Gospel, the optimism that our culture needs, the civility that our culture needs, and the Christ our culture needs.
Planting Of Oak Tree
Following the ceremony, guests were invited to join the First Family to observe the planting of an oak tree near the Hayes Ministry and Welcome Center. Given by Lisa, Ethan, and Emily Fant, the tree honors and commemorates the official installation of President Fant.
Inaugural Week Highlights
The university saturated the campus with God’s revelation of Himself to His Creation, by reading through the Bible aloud on campus Monday, April 9 until the inauguration on Friday, April 13.
Alumni, faculty, and staff from North Greenville’s earlier eras gathered for an Academy and Junior College Luncheon Celebration to recognize and celebrate the unsung heroes who sacrificed, prayed, and worked for the continued existence and mission of North Greenville on Thursday, April 12.
The President’s Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 12 featured Dr. Hunter Baker, associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, TN. Hunter’s topic for the lecture was “The Need for Christian Statesmanship.”
The evening of the inauguration featured a 40th Anniversary Celebration of the university’s ministry team, Joyful Sound. The current Joyful Sound groups presented a concert and were joined by Joyful Sound alumni to form a joint mass choir for the final three songs of the worship service.
And on Saturday afternoon, April 14, North Greenville baseball christened the new artificial playing surface at Ashmore Park with a field dedication ceremony honoring Ray and Bea Dillard and family. Also honored was Russell Ashmore and family who was responsible for the initial work on the baseball field in 1979 and named Ashmore Field. The park will now be called Ashmore Park, named in loving memory of his parents, Russell C., Sr. and Nelle B. Ashmore. The families were honored between the first and second games of the Crusaders’ doubleheader with Limestone College.