North Greenville University graduates first doctoral class

In his Dec. 12 commencement address at North Greenville University, John G. Rocovich Jr. told graduates to be intellectually curious and to have a love for learning and a thirst for knowledge. “These are hallmarks of people with truly great accomplishments,” said Rocovich, attorney and founder of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The commencement ceremony marked a first for NGU: Among the 176 degrees awarded were three from the doctor of ministry program — the first doctorates bestowed in the school’s 121-year history.

Rocovich left the graduates with three secrets: Begin a process of lifelong learning; put forth the extra effort, and the world will reward you greatly; whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord, not for men.

John G. Rocovich Jr., attorney and founder of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, was the keynote speaker for North Greenville University’s December commencement exercises on Dec. 12.

John G. Rocovich Jr., attorney and founder of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, was the keynote speaker for North Greenville University’s December commencement exercises on Dec. 12.

Rocovich closed his speech with a quote from the world’s most famous “doctor,” Doctor Seuss: “Seize the day, seize the hour, seize the moment.”

Rocovich was born in Roanoke, Va. He attended Virginia Tech, graduating cum laude in 1966. He attended law school at the University of Richmond, then passed the Virginia bar in 1967. Rocovich then entered New York University, where he graduated with his master of laws in taxation degree in 1968.

He returned to Roanoke to establish the law firm Moss & Rocovich, where he currently practices taxation and trusts as well as estate law with his daughter, Elizabeth. He founded the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Va., which now has a South Carolina location in Spartanburg. He is the chairman of its board of directors.

Approximately 11 NGU students have been accepted to Edward Via and have graduated or are still in the program. “I enjoy our relationship with North Greenville University,” said Rocovich. “I love the students you send us. They show up with a missionary heart. We are the only medical college in America that trains missionary doctors. We operate full-time clinics in Latin America.”

At the conclusion of Rocovich’s address, the university awarded him an honorary doctor of Christian leadership degree.

Businessman Ralph S. Hendricks of Simpsonville was also awarded an honorary Christian leadership degree. Born in 1917 in Bowman, Ga., Hendricks was the oldest of six children. Growing up during the Great Depression, he had to start working at an early age to help support his family. He never received much education, which resulted in his having a strong desire to encourage young people to get a good education.

After World War II, Hendricks secured a job with his father-in-law, who was part owner of a building supply operation in Simpsonville. Later, in 1957, Hendricks’ father-in-law retired and gave him the opportunity to purchase his interest and become part owner and manager of the business. After many years of hard work, the business grew during the 1970s and 1980s, providing Hendricks with the opportunity to expand his business interests by getting into land development, where he specialized in selling lots and building homes.

In 1985, Hendricks’ first wife, Virginia, passed away suddenly, but, before her death, the couple had discussed ways they could help young people in the Simpsonville area. Hendricks decided to create the Ralph and Virginia Hendricks Foundation, with the primary mission of providing college scholarships to young people.

In 1986, Hendricks married Marian Hubbard, and they have worked together on the foundation. The Hendricks Foundation has helped nearly 425 students from area high schools and universities, including North Greenville University.

In November, Hendricks was the recipient of NGU’s 2013 Board Leadership Award. He and his wife have also supported several capital projects at North Greenville. The Athletic Field House is named in their honor, and the President’s Box in the new Jimmy and Gretchen Epting Athletic/Worship Center will also bear their name.

At 96, Hendricks is still active and enjoys going to the office each day. “I’m so thankful for this award today,” he said. “I want to say to the students, ‘Always remember: In the good times and the bad times, come to the Lord; He’s working for you.’ ”