North Greenville University (NGU) held its December Commencement Exercises on Friday, December 10, on the Tigerville Campus. Pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville and President Emeritus of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Dr. Alex Sands addressed the 196 undergraduate and graduate students, family, and friends.
Following the processional of the administration, faculty, and candidates, NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. welcomed all honored guests and read from Isaiah 40.
NGU Board Chair Dr. Mike Hamlett led the invocation. Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science and Chair of the English Department Dr. Cheryl Collier read 1 Peter 2:9-12. The NGU Brass Ensemble provided music.
Before the address, President Fant invited South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Gary Hollingsworth to help confer an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree to Sands on behalf of NGU for his leadership, character, example, and courage in leading SC Baptists. Dr. Hollingsworth was assisted by NGU Board of Trustee Secretary-Treasurer, Mrs. Shana Sands.
Sands began his address by sharing what he thought when he graduated college.
"I couldn't remember what I wanted to do and how I wanted to make a difference in this world, but I remember what I wanted. A Mitsubishi 3000GT," said Sands. "It cost about $35,000 at the time. It was equivalent to $65,000 today. When I told my girlfriend (who is now his wife) what I wanted, she asked, 'does it have a kitchen and bathroom. Certainly, if it cost that much, you should be able to live in it.'"
He said he wanted a lifestyle.
"I encourage you to pursue a life, not a lifestyle," he said.
He referenced Jeremiah 45 and urged the graduates to not live for this world, a world that will be gone one day.
"Don't invest in a comfortable lifestyle, a Mitsubishi 3000GT. God offers you life. He offers you eternal life," Sands said.
Joshua Byram, a Florence native and December summa cum laude marketing degree graduate, says he is pursuing a lifelong career in marketing.
"I'm certainly not done with my academic career. I am excited to be working at Infinity Marketing in Greenville, SC, as an integrated marketing coordinator, a job I received after an internship at the same company," Byram said.
Byram says he loves to interact with ideas and people, and he believes marketing allows me to utilize both in the business world.
"It's exciting to see a client's vision come to life through a team effort of various ideas and skills," he said.
He realized his entrepreneurial spirit during his senior year at Darlington High School. He wanted a degree in something that would allow him business development and creativity opportunities.
"Marketing seemed like the best fit," he said.
Why choose NGU?
He knew several people in his church who attended NGU but never really thought of it much until he was a senior in high school.
"I toured it [NGU] once and then again my fourth trip by February of my senior year. Even though I thought my sights were set on a large state school, I could not shake the feeling I got every time I was on campus. NGU felt different, and I couldn't see it as a coincidence."
"Today, I look back on that experience and see the hand of God in my life directing me to the place where He would have me spend my college years. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I praise the Lord for His provision."
Perhaps the best part of his experience at NGU was the people he met, particularly the professors.
"I will miss interacting with them inside and outside the classroom. Some professors who had the most impact on my life include Professor Josh Styles, who has served as a mentor outside of class. Dr. Greg Bruce taught me how to think critically and express my ideas in writing. Dr. David Riddering and Mrs. Mollie Withers taught me to become a Christ-centered marketer. And Dr. Rick Martinez demonstrated how to become a leader in the church and the marketplace. All this knowledge has already served me well, and I believe it will continue to manifest itself in all aspects of my life."
In addition to being an excellent student, Josh also enjoyed participating in several campus organizations such as BCM Impact Teams, Young Americans for Freedom, Junto Reading Group, Student Marketing Association, and Fortress Christian Fellowship.
Combining with being a 4.0 student, Josh has also become somewhat of a barbeque aficionado. He ran an Instagram page reviewing the Upstate's best barbeque restaurants for his social media class. So, if you are looking for a BBQ recommendation, he can point you in the right direction.
North Greenville has so much to offer. And Josh says If you are looking for a place where you can grow in your walk with Christ, experience the free exchange of ideas uncommon on most college campuses, and have a lot of fun both on campus and in the Upstate, then NGU is the place for you.
NGU offers more than 115 areas of study across certificate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and early college opportunities. Online. In-person. At our main campus in Tigerville, SC, the Tim Brashier Campus in Greer, SC, or several educational centers around the U.S. One university, many locations. Every day. Epic. Learn more.