The development of North Greenville Junior College during its first seventy-five years of history has been dependent upon the decisions and actions of courageous and devoted men and women. They accepted without reservation a charge that was given them. Their charge was to establish and perpetuate a school of high quality which, in later years, was to be committed, entrusted, and delivered to succeeding generations for their custody and care. Among this host of devoted men and women are to be found trustees, administrators, and faculty members, as well as alumni, students, and interested friends whose only connection with the school was a genuine concern for its growth and well-being.
When Professor Peterson, the third principal of the school, saw that he needed to advertise his school in order to gain patronage from the state at large, he set out on a trip through the lower section of South Carolina. Traveling by horse and buggy he visited a church each Saturday and Sunday to meet those who were interested in attending school and to present the claims of his institution. Considering the slow and tiresome mode of travel he was forced to use, one must admire the determination of this devoted man who spent his vacation laying foundation for a greater success for the next year.
Another example of devotion to the school is that of Benjamin F. Neves, a friend and trustee during the administration of Professor Peterson. As related by Miss Jean Flynn in A History of North Greenville Junior College, because of an increase in enrollment, additional “boarding space became necessary. The Neve lived in a nine-room house on the highway. On down the road Neves owned a smaller five-room house. When the need for boarding space was told Neves, something happened. The Neves family – six in all – moved into the small house, while Professor Peterson and twenty of the dormitory students moved into the larger house.”
For our third example, we cite an incident that happened in the year 1924. During this year, there was a great deal of discussion concerning the wisdom of keeping the academies open. Dr. E. B. Crain, a trustee of North Greenville at that time, made the report on Education before the Thirty-seventh Annual Session of the North Greenville Association. Among other things he said: “Some are saying that our denominational academies ought to be and will be abandoned. I think those that advocate these things are making a mistake. This day may come. I hope it won’t, but if it does, it will be a sad day and a dark page in the history of the Baptist denomination.”
Soon after this, the Home Mission Board withdrew its support from the academies, so that it became necessary for Spartan Academy and Six Mile Academy to close. Long Creek Academy was taken over as a private school. Among the academies in South Carolina only North Greenville remained open because Dr. Crain and other urged the association to ask Dr. Charles A Jones, Secretary-treasurer of the General Board of South Carolina Baptists to return to the school twenty per cent of all funds sent him from the association for the Unified Budget. The amount requested was increased to twenty-five percent in 1927, and to fifty percent in 1928. With this financial support North Greenville was able to remain open. Without it the school would have closed.
In 1930, when the question of adding junior college work as under consideration, the trustees of North Greenville asked the Baptist State Convention to make a survey to determine the timeliness of such action. The study was made by a committee and the conclusion made by them is state in part below:
“We believe that the required number of students for a junior college could be had within two or three years, and that such an institution would accomplish much good in that section. However, it will take at least $275,000 to put this school in shape to become a standard junior college-$25,000 for debts, $50,000 for building and $200,00 0 for endowment. After weighing the above facts we are of the opinion that North Greenville Academy should NOT become a junior college.”
In spite of this adverse opinion, on August 4, 1934, the trustees voted unanimously to set up one year of college work. Later they voted to add the second year. By their courageous action North Greenville became a junior college.
Not only are courageous administrators and trustees needed to insure the success of an institution. Devoted instructors and ambitious students are also essential. North Greenville has been blessed with these also. I shall mention only two examples, one of a teacher and one of a student.
Miss Harlee Cooper joined the faculty in 1922 and served continuously until 1963 with the exception of two years, 1929-1931, when she was on leave of absence for further study. Some of the years of difficulty and uncertainty were during the years of Miss Cooper’s tenure. Funds were inadequate for payment of salaries and trustees made the decision that salaries be placed at $50 per month with board, salaries to be paid if and when the money comes in. In addition to her regular teaching load, Miss Cooper sponsored the E.Q.V., a literary society for the young ladies. She organized the Baptist Student Union and directed its activities for several years. She was also faculty sponsor of the Student Volunteer Band for many years. In May, 1963, Miss Cooper retired after thirty-eight years of “labor of love” for North Greenville.
For an example of a student whose life and work was noteworthy, we have chosen a graduate of the class of 1966, Miss Sheila Rice Hilley. Sheila lost the sought of both eyes at the age of six when she was struck by a car. The years 1952-62 were spent in the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. She completed the last two years of her high school work at Belton High School and was graduated in 1962. Thereupon, she entered the North Greenville as a freshman in the fall of 1964. In May, 1966 Sheila was graduated from North Greenville with high rank. In recognition of her courage and perseverance in the face of handicaps, the Executive Committee of the college chose her as the first winner of the Rodgers Award provided by Dr. C. Leland Rodgers, a former member of the faculty, in honor of this father, Alton Eugene Rodgers. “The Award is given to any student who excels in some finer quality of life, such as perseverance, heroism, or other unusual accomplishment.”
Written by H. J. Howard, Dean Emeritus, for the Winter 1967 North Greenville Junior College Alumni Magazine.