Tigerville, SC (May 7, 2019) North Greenville University (NGU) celebrated spring commencement on a hot, humid morning on Saturday, May 4 in Melvin and Dollie Younts Stadium on the Tigerville Campus. Mike Pereyo, founder and CEO of OOBE, an apparel design company headquartered in Greenville, addressed the over 200 undergraduates, graduates, and doctoral candidates before 5,000 family and friends in attendance.
Following the processional of the administration, faculty, and candidates, NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. read Psalm 34:4-9, and welcomed all honored guests.
Chaplain Major J. Scott Squires, lead pastor for the JFK Memorial Chapel in Fort Bragg, NC, led the invocation. An Old Testament reading was offered by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Business Dr. Tracy Kramer, Dr. Rick Sparks, a professor in the College of Communication, read New Testament passages, and the North Greenville Singers provided music.
Pereyo told the graduates, “[I am] so stoked to be here, but I feel like I’ve let y’all down. I’m in the apparel business, and I didn’t make you a breathable gown. Moisture-wicking. Why didn’t we think about that? My apology. That’s on me.”
He shared with the graduates a guiding principle in his life that he wishes someone had shared with him when he graduated from college. He expressed five things with the theme of priority. “What you prioritize will determine how you will use your time, talent, and resources from this point forward,” he said.
First, sewing and reaping are two separate events. They do not happen simultaneously. “Have a willingness to wait in God’s waiting room,” he said. Second, busyness will destroy intimacy in all your relationships. Pereyo said busyness kept him from making the most important things in his life a priority. Third, focus on the unique roles that you can not be replaced in. Pereyo said he could be replaced at OOBE, but he can not be replaced as a husband and father to his three children. He told the graduates that they, too, have unique roles as a son, daughter, future husband, and future wife. He asked the graduates to stand and turn around and face the audience to thank, with applause, “the people who love you and who gave you these unique roles.” Fourth, focus on things that don’t burn. Have a heart of wisdom, not a heart for things that burn. And his last priority, which he said is the most important, is to make God your first priority. “Allow Him to be your compass.”
Following Pereyo’s address, President Fant and Provost Finn awarded two honorary doctorate degrees. The university honored two women that have “shared influence in our region and across the nation for their advocacy work for the most fragile of our kind, unborn children,” said Fant.
Alexia Newman, who celebrated her 30th year as head of the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg County, was honored with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Lenna Smith, who recently retired as CEO from Piedmont Women’s Center in Greenville, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Before the graduates received their diplomas, a moment of silence was held in memory of Austin Buice who was to be a member of the Class of 2019. Buice, a secondary education major, was tragically killed in a car accident in Greenville County on November 20, 2018. A chair draped with a graduation gown, mortarboard, and a bouquet of red roses was placed with the graduating class to honor Buice.
A Graduate’s Reflection
While reflecting on what drew her to NGU, Mary Richardson (’19) from Rock Hill shared of the devotion to Christ in the people she interacted with on campus.
Her grandfather, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankees second baseman spoke at several chapel services on campus and spoke highly of NGU to Richardson. But she says it was her older brother’s encouraging testimony that influenced her decision to apply.
The Christ-centered environment at NGU is exactly the type of community that Richardson sought after to continue her education.
One outlet NGU offers to students to promote the discussion of Christianity both on and off campus is the Life Answers Team (LAT) which focuses on defending the Christian faith.
“We learn and research about our faith and put it against a lot of the common objections and arguments against it,” explained LAT team leader, Richardson.
Each semester, students serving in the LAT prepare a presentation and visit seven to ten churches and schools to equip other Christians with the tools they need to know how to defend their faith.
Every time Richardson introduces the team on stage she jokes, “We are the life answers team, but we definitely don’t have all of life’s answers.”
Richardson spent three years working with the Life Answers Team. She shared she felt especially thankful for the ability to learn how to defend her faith along with having the opportunity to practice speaking in public.
“Life answers team has been an awesome opportunity,” she said.
As Richardson reflected on her time at NGU and the classes that prepared her for life after graduation, she highlighted two classes specifically offered for intercultural students: practicum 2 and cultural anthropology.
During her practicum 2 class taught by Dr. Allen McWhite, executive director for NGU’s Institue of Global Leadership, Richardson along with her classmates prepared for a trip to Ecuador. The class then traveled for a month during the summer to study effective methods for cross-cultural missions. The team worked alongside a missionary family that had served in Ecuador for over thirty years.
In her cultural anthropology class taught by Dr. Gerald Roe, chair of the intercultural studies department, Richardson learned not only about other cultures, but also how those cultures developed. This class kindled Richardson’s passion for learning about new cultures and studying different worldviews.
Richardson shared that she appreciated the ability to learn and grow in an environment with students edifying the idea of iron sharpening iron as portrayed in Proverbs 27:17. “I’m super thankful for the environment here at NGU,” said Richardson.
“I’m going to miss the campus atmosphere, but maybe not all of the assignments so much,” said Richardson with laughter.
Following graduating from NGU, Richardson hopes to share the Gospel with people in a cross-cultural setting.
Richardson plans to travel to Myrtle Beach with a BCM mission team to work with new church plants. She also hopes to do demographic research in the area to help churches.
After the summer of 2019, Richardson will travel to Arkansas, where she will serve a one-year term working in the mission’s department at the School of Ministry for Cross Church. Following that job, Richardson wishes to join the Journeyman program with the International Mission Board.