NGU alumni and friend honored at Alumni Connect event

NGU alumni gathered at the fall Alumni Connect event at the Cannon Centre in Greer on Oct. 11. Four North Greenville University alumni and friend were honored by the university’s alumni association during an awards ceremony.

Nathan Bramsen (’07), from North Africa, was named distinguished alumnus of the year; Justin Pitts (’07, MBA ’12), from Greer, was awarded the alumnus of the year honor; Janice Alford (’98), from Greenville, was recognized with the president’s award; Carl Dukes (’12, M.Ed. ’14), from Little River, was honored as young alumnus of the year; and Bea Dillard, of Spartanburg, was named friend of the year.

Nathan Bramsen (’07) named the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award.

Nate Bramsen (’07), the recipient of the distinguished alumnus of the year award, was born and raised in Senegal, West Africa. At the age of 16, he saw the opportunity to invest his life into the abused, neglected, and abandoned children of this world for both the sake of time and eternity. After graduating from NGU with a degree in business and broadcasting, he headed to the Middle East to begin pioneer work among this demographic of children.

He founded ROCK International in 2006 and continues to serve the organization in Niger, West Africa. He travels extensively around the world speaking at conferences, universities, and churches with a passion for seeing this generation become unconditional followers of Jesus Christ and have an eternal vision for the unreached world around them. He is currently working to establish an orphanage in Niger.

Today he carries out a global speaking schedule across six continents, podcasts, and oversees international development projects. He recently married Priyanka Mathews of Houston, Texas. Together their hearts are to see this generation become unconditional followers of Jesus Christ — regardless of the cost.

Bramsen produces regular podcasts on, has helped to produce a movie called, “King of Glory” for Muslim nations, and he is an accomplished author. Recently, he published his first book entitled, “What If Jesus Meant What He Said?”

In his spare time, he enjoys coaching, swimming, bungee jumping, and exploring the world. He is a bridge builder with other cultures and an evangelist with a clear gospel message: There is but one passion, one goal, one prize, and that is to glorify the name of Jesus Christ.

Justin J. Pitts (’07, MBA ’12), NGU’s Tim Brashier campus director and director of adult and graduate admissions, received the alumnus of the year award. He has served in this capacity since October of 2015 but has ties to NGU dating back to 2003 when he began his undergraduate degree in Tigerville.

Pitts holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and a master of business administration from NGU. He lives in Greer with his wife of eight years, his 5-year-old daughter, and 4-year-old son. They attend Grace Church where they are actively involved in ministry to both kids and teens. Pitts enjoys spending time with his family, specifically taking his kids to school or eating breakfast together on Saturdays. If he’s not with his family, you can find him reading, running, or mowing the lawn.

Janice Alford (’98), a native of Darlington, S.C., is a certified grief and loss counselor/educator and outreach coordinator for Agape Hospice of the Upstate.

Alford earned a bachelor of arts in mass communication and an associate degree in fine arts, concentrating in performing arts, from NGU. She obtained a master of arts in church music and a master of arts in Christian education from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga. She has also received her certification in grief counseling from the American Institute of Health Care Professionals.

She began her career in the communications, public relations, and the media arena in Greenville, S.C., and later transitioned to public education. She served for fourteen years as an educator in Darlington County, Florence County Four, and Newark Public Schools in Newark, N.J.

During her time at NGU, she was a member of the performing arts team, ACT II, Black Student Fellowship, Student Christian League, and she performed in several of the school productions, with her final production as the leading protagonist in “The Odd Couple,” by Neil Simon, playing the role of Olive in the female version. Alford continues to display her love for music and theatre. For the past 20 years, she has been a member of the national gospel recording group, Larry McCullough & Chosen Generation, a member of the Spectrum Theatre Company, and has also performed in Off-Broadway productions of “Steal Away,” “The Amen Corner,” and “The Wiz.”

NGU President Gene C. Fant Jr. (right) presents Carl Dukes (’12, M.Ed. ’14) the 2018 Young Alumnus of the Year Award.

Carl Dukes (’12, M.Ed. ’14) is a special education teacher as well as the head wrestling coach at North Myrtle Beach High School. He has worked for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, helping to identify gang members and adding criminals to the National Gang Database.

He earned both his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in education and communication and his master’s degree in education from NGU. He also earned a master’s degree in special education with a focus in learning disabilities from Francis Marion University. Currently, he is pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership at NGU.

While earning his undergraduate degree at NGU, he played football all four years and received the Iron Crusader Award for the weight room in football in 2010 and 2011. Also during his time at NGU, he was an assistant strength and conditioning coach and assisted the football defensive coordinator with coaching the linebackers.

Dukes is a motivational speaker and has spoken to many church youth groups, congregations, Fellowship of Christian Athletes clubs, public schools, youth group homes, and juvenile facilities. He works tirelessly to raise funds and purchase school supplies for disadvantaged inner-city children in Conway, S.C., volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse, hosts neighborhood and community activities and cookouts, mentors inner-city kids, and cleans yards for those who are less fortunate.

Bea Dillard, born in Aurora, N.C., dreamed as a child and well into her adult life to teach school. That was not a possibility as four years of college was out of the question. She chose to take graphic arts at Chowan College, and as a result, came to Spartanburg for employment with the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. She met Ray Dillard while employed at the Herald-Journal and they married the following year. They were blessed to be married for 53 years, and have three children, and six grandchildren.

Dillard’s desire to teach or at least be involved with children never changed, and as a result of that lifelong desire, when her three children entered adulthood, she opened Merryland Child Development Center in Spartanburg. Her husband, Ray, took early retirement from the Herald Journal and came to work with her at Merryland. They opened a second child development center and formed a transportation company that enabled them to pick up and deliver children to their home. She found great fulfillment in being involved in the lives of children. Her motto was always “In their success, I will find my own.” A significant part of that fulfillment came from operating a Christian-based center.

When the Dillards retired, they began to feel the need to be involved with Christian higher education and were delighted to learn of an opportunity to participate in the building of a new baseball field. Both believed a first quality ballfield would be a significant attraction to young men for generations to come, but more importantly, they felt a Christian education would allow students to reach their full potential, offering them opportunities for spiritual growth, academic training, athletic training, and Christian service. Their life’s motto has been: “May those who come behind us find us faithful.”

Ray passed away Dec. 24, 2016, before the NGU ballfield came to life, but because of the passion and dedication of a powerful woman, the new Ray and Bea Dillard Field at Ashmore Park was born. It is currently the only all-turf baseball field at the high school or college level in the state of South Carolina.

— LaVerne Howell is director of communications at North Greenville University.