“North Greenville is more to us than just a school; it’s our home,” stated Mrs. Conya (Johnson) Blackwell, wife of Fess Blackwell, retired math teacher at the college. “I came to North Greenville in 1938, met Fess, and thought that was a good reason to stay.”
Fess loved people! One of his favorite pastimes was to sit at T.P. Wood’s store and “shoot the bull” with the folks from the community. He watched North Greenville grow and change. When he started teaching at NGC, there were only four buildings on campus.
North Greenville College gave Fess Blackwell a place from which to minister. The lives of many people were touched by him during the 38 years of his loyal service to the school. It wasn’t unusual for him to teach a student and later teach the children of that student. Three of the former students he taught were: the Honorable Albert Watson, Dr. Loyd Batson (president of the SC Baptist Convention), and Dr. Robert G. Mann.
One doesn’t talk with Conya Blackwell long before another great figure in the life of the college is mentioned – the late Dr. M. C. Donnan. Dr. Donnan made it possible for Conya to come to North Greenville. She had no family, so the college became her home. After Conya and Fess were married, Dr. Donnan became a close friend of the family, just as he was with many others in the community.
Why did Fess and Conya make North Greenville College their home? . . . Because they saw the potential the college had to minister to students, but even more so because they liked the people. They reared their four children, Jim, Jud, Robert, and Letitia, at NGC. The Blackwells attended Tigerville Baptist Church, where Fess was a Sunday School teacher and church treasurer for about 20 years. He was also a deacon for about 14 or 15 years.
While Fess was healthy and active he was known as a very dependable, efficient, faithful, and cooperative individual. He retired in 1968 after 38 years of teaching, building, directing athletics and caring for students. His retirement was not by choice, but because his health would no longer permit him to work.
Fess has now been disabled for 11 years. The last four of these years, he has been confirmed to Roger Huntington Nursing Center, in Greer, SC. Conya or one of the children visits him each day to feed and care for him.
Robert Judson “Fess” Blackwell doesn’t talk much now; he just listens, but his example says a lot to students and faculty alike. Fess never says a lot to students and faculty alike. Fess never saw his work as just a job; he saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to serve people.
“North Greenville has been our college and our home,” related Conya, “because it has provided us with an opportunity to serve others.”
Article printed in the Fall 1977 issue of the North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.