North Greenville University (NGU) has announced that its Consultant for Public Affairs Lisa Van Riper, will be the December undergraduate commencement speaker on Friday, Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. in Turner Chapel on the NGU campus.
Despite the emotionally-paralyzing pandemic this past year, NGU remains strong and experienced a positive fall semester. The COVID-19 protocols released by the University for the fall semester will also guide the commencement experience. It remains the University’s highest priority to provide as safe an environment as possible to our community and guests.
Van Riper joined NGU in 1989, serving as a political science instructor. In 1995, she became the University’s first director of its Honors Scholar Program. During her over two decades as the director, the program grew from 19 students to approximately 200 annual members. Graduates of the Honors Scholar Program have distinguished themselves in all professions, including ministry, medicine, education, media, music, law, and business. In 2017, Van Riper retired as director of the Honors Program to oversee Public Affairs for the University.
Van Riper has five decades of experience and activity in public policymaking, either through teaching or direct public service at both the local and state level. She is a former member of the State Board of Education, where she represented the 13th Judicial Circuit. During her tenure, she served as chair of the curriculum committee, which oversaw state curriculum standards and textbooks. She also served 12 years as the gubernatorial appointee for both Governors Sanford and Haley for the South Carolina First Steps Program for School Readiness Board of Trustees. She served as secretary of the board and chair for the strategic planning and evaluation committee. During her service, the First Steps Program provided initiatives to help parents and local communities “ready” the children of South Carolina for school. Van Riper was particularly proud of the First Steps role in implementing and overseeing the program, which allowed parents of at-risk children to choose private childcare centers for4K.
In addition to her board service, she served as the founding executive director for Governor and Mrs. Beasley’s Putting Families First Foundation. This welfare-reform initiative was a mentoring program designed to partner faith-based and non-profits with individuals transitioning from welfare to work. This foundation trained thousands of volunteers during its duration and assisted hundreds of individuals in their journeys to work. The mentoring program became a model for other states and was featured in Time magazine, on CBS Morning News, and in local newspapers and magazines across South Carolina. For this initiative, Van Riper was recognized with the distinguished service award by the National Governor’s Association and with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian service award by Governor David Beasley.
Van Riper has served in Greenville County on the boards of United Way, Community Planning Council, the Junior League, and the Martin Luther King Day Task Force of Greenville County Council. She is an active member at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville.
She is currently president of South Carolina Citizens for Life, where she is active in the legal protection of the unborn and innocent human life. During her tenure, she and her board have worked with the SC General Assembly to pass eight bills protecting women and their unborn children. In 2019, she received the Carroll Campbell Courage in Leadership Award, which was presented to her at the Greenville County Republican Convention.
A native of Springfield, Van Riper graduated from Hunter-Kinard High School, where she was valedictorian. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Furman University, graduating Magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. While at Furman, she served in student government and received the Babbs Award for Leadership. She completed her master’s in public administration at the University of South Carolina. She served on staff for Greenville County Council, where she worked in management and budget services, served as council liaison, and staffed the public safety committee. Before her work at North Greenville, Van Riper was an adjunct instructor in political science at now USC-Upstate.
Lisa and her husband, Donald, have two daughters and sons-in-law, and five grandchildren.
In addition to the undergraduate commencement, NGU’s Physician Assistant Medicine program will hold its white coat and hooding ceremonies at 10 a.m. and the graduate school/online commencement at 1 p.m. also in Turner Chapel on Friday, Dec. 11.
Learn more about NGU’s nationally recognized academic programs at ngu.edu/academics.