(This story was updated February 2, 2015)
The North Greenville University board of trustees has announced that Jimmy Epting, the school’s president for the last 23 years, will be taking a sabbatical leave during the current semester and will retire at the end of the school’s fiscal year in May.
“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Epting … and thankful for the miracles God has performed at the university under his leadership,” said Beverly Hawkins, chairwoman of the university’s board of trustees, in a Jan. 6 news release.
The NGU board, which met Jan. 15, has appointed a four-person committee to find an interim president, said Randall J. Pannell, chief academic officer. Pannell was appointed by the board to serve as the university’s spokesperson until an interim president is named. He told the Courier that trustees will be “thinking and talking” about guidelines for seeking the school’s eighth president and will use an outside search firm to vet candidates.
Pannell said Epting has some health concerns “but no life-threatening issue at this point.”
“This was a little bit of a surprise, but not a complete surprise,” he said of Epting’s decision to request a sabbatical. “The catalyst was the health issue.”
Epting’s tenure began in 1991 when he was named the seventh president of North Greenville College, then a two-year institution. Enrollment was at an all-time low of 329 students at the time, and the school’s imminent closure was looming. Since Epting took office, the school has prospered, celebrating its 18th consecutive record enrollment last fall with an enrollment of 2,632 undergraduate, graduate and online students.
He directed the school through two capital campaigns. The Second Century Fund was set at $6 million in 1992, increased to $12 million, and surpassed the second goal in three and a half years. The school is currently at the close of its second five-year GIFT God Capital Campaign, for which the original goal was set at $25 million, surpassed, and increased to $42.7 million. With a year remaining, the campaign total has reached more than $42 million. As a result of these fundraising efforts, capital projects totaling more than $40 million have been built on the northern Greenville county campus without incurring debt.
Under Epting’s leadership, the college began offering four-year degrees in 1994, and attained university status in 2005. Graduate programs began at the T. Walter Brashier Graduate School in 2006, and a doctoral degree was added in 2012. The school currently offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and online degree programs. An additional satellite location was opened in 2014 at the Tim Brashier Center in Greenville, which houses the school’s MBA program.