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North Greenville University names 8th president

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Gene C. Fant, Jr., the new president of North Greenville University, addresses a crowd with his wife Tina and children Ethan and Emily Thursday in Tigerville. Fant is the eighth president in North Greenville's 125-year history. (Photo/Matthew Clark)

Current Palm Beach Atlantic Provost Gene C. Fant, Jr. has been named the eighth president of North Greenville University.

He replaces Jimmy Epting, who retired from the university two years ago. Since Epting’s retirement, Randall Pannell — the university’s vice president for academics — has served in the role as an interim.

Fant, who will officially begin at the Tigerville campus on June 1, steps in as the university celebrates its 125th year of operation. The 53-year-old son of a retired Baptist pastor and a syndicated radio show host said one of his missions is clear.

“I want to cultivate thoughtful leaders of our society,” Fant said.

Bill Tyler, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said the announcement of Fant was “a historic day in the life of North Greenville.” He said the university received 61 applications for the position and the search committee, along with the search firm CarterBaldwin Executive Search, found that Fant was the best fit for the university.

“We knew that, with this hire, we needed to get it right,” Tyler said. “There were many long meetings and prayers.”

Prior to arriving at Palm Beach Atlantic in 2014, Fant worked at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. — most recently as the executive vice president for academic administration. As part of his duties at Union, he oversaw the academic transition of the university’s athletic department from NAIA to NCAA Division II.

Tyler said another key role for Fant will be that of a fundraiser. While he would not specify any major fundraising campaigns on the horizon, Tyler did say Fant’s enthusiasm for that aspect of the job was a big factor in his hiring.

“We wanted to know, as the board of trustees, if the guy can raise money,” Tyler said. “He has worked for two university leaders that were masterful at development.

“In his interview, he said 60% of his job was fundraising. For me, that means he has to be a great organized leader.”

Getting out into the community and representing the university was a key responsibility the board of trustees looked for in the search, Tyler said. He said “we don’t want him behind a desk, we want him out there.”

“I believe we have had people wanting to give but were waiting for this to happen,” Tyler said. “I think they will be pleasantly surprised now.”

Fant said after he opens his office door for the first time on June 1, it will be time to go to work. That work will include examining what the university has in place before making any decisions on what to add to it.

Additionally, he said he wanted to be “plugged in” to the business community of the Upstate.

“Greenville is a hot, hot city right now and South Carolina is a state people are really looking at, especially the Upstate,” Fant said.

According to Tyler, recent reports suggest North Greenville University applications for enrollment for the 2017-18 academic year are the largest in the school’s history. He added the university has seen a 50% year-over-year increase in student revenues leading into the next academic year.

New North Greenville University President Gene Fant addresses a crowd at the university.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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