In October, 1996, while visiting family and friends in the Carolinas, I made a brief visit to North Greenville College. Joy and thanksgiving overwhelmed me as I viewed the beautiful array of buildings presently on the campus. This reflected to me how God has blessed and continues to bless this institution. I could not help but recall my high school years at North Greenville Baptist Academy and the impact this made on my life.
What led me to go to North Greenville? Certainly circumstances were a big factor, but I believe it was God’s plan for me. My father died when I was only five years old. Shortly after this my mother and I went from North Carolina to live with her sister and husband in Greenville. Later we all moved to Lyman when I was nine years old. As I finished grammar school, my mother faced a real problem because there was no high school in Lyman. She was working long hours each day. At her pastor’s suggestion, she pursued the possibility of my going to North Greenville Baptist Academy.
In the fall of 1928, at age thirteen, I entered North Greenville. The school was just twenty miles from Lyman, but it seemed like another world to me. Yes, I was homesick at first, but soon made the adjustment and felt at home. Mrs. Hill, the dean of women, assigned me to room with her daughter, Matrel. We were the youngest students in the dormitory. Matrel and I were roommates our four years at North Greenville and then two years in Anderson Junior College. Our friendship continued through many years until the Lord took her home.
As I reflect on my high school years at North Greenville, many things stand out in my mind. In a special way I give thanks and pay tribute to Dr. Donnan, the president of the school, and to my teachers, Miss Harlee Cooper, Mr. Dewy Mitchell, Mr. Fess Blackwell, Dr. and Mrs. Sam Lawton, Miss Amanda Poole, Miss Hazel Duncan, and Mother Wingo. I have vivid memories of each and the subjects they taught. They each influenced my life.
At North Greenville, I learned the value of work. One summer I stayed at the school to study piano, work in the kitchen, and clean the dormitories. During these depression years, the students did most of the work. I learned much from Miss Essie Taylor, our dietician. She taught us many thing such as how to clean and cut up a chicken; make pieces and cook other dishes. I remember we had grits twice a day and I still like them.
As students, we were privileged on occasions, to have pastors and denominational leaders speak in our chapel services. I especially remember the visit of Dr. Lee Scarborough, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. At this time, I felt God leading me into some phase of missionary service. After graduation from Furman University, I went to Southwestern Seminary, and worked in Dr. Scarborough’s office.
An extra for the students in the Academy was the privilege of being a member of the Literary Society. This offered learning experiences, practices, in debating, and public speaking along with times of fun and fellowship.
Discipline was strict at the Academy. Dating was permitted, but under close supervision. The school was small enough to know everyone by name, and we had opportunities to study, work, and play together. I have happy memories of my school mates and value the friendships formed during those years. Distance has made it impossible for me to attend the alumni reunions. Regrettable many of those of my times are no long alive. I do appreciate all the news I receive from the Academy Club and NGC.
My years at North Greenville Baptist Academy really formed a solid basis of my college and seminary education. It also contributed to some forty years on the mission field which began with the Chinese church in El Paso, TX. Serving as a missionary with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention presented opportunities to teach in the Mexican Baptist Seminary and serve at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso, TX, writing materials for all of the Spanish speaking world. Dr. Tom Hill, Roberta Ryan, and I, all graduates of North Greenville, served together for a while at the Publishing House.
Words are inadequate to express my appreciation for the opportunities I have had partially as a result of attending the North Greenville Baptist Academy (College). May the Lord continue to bless this Christian endeavor.
Photo: Viola Campbell (’32) with her friend from El Paso during her 1996 visit to campus.
Story written by Viola D. Campbell (’32) and printed in the April 1997 issue of the NGC Alumni Newsletter.