NGU News

Beloved History Professor Shirley Hickson passes away at 77

Posted on: April 29, 2021
By LaVerne Howell,

Beloved History Professor Shirley Hickson passes away at 77Tigerville, SC–Dr. Shirley Ann Hickson, retired North Greenville University (NGU) history professor who served from 1971 until 2012, passed away on Sunday, April 25, 2021. She was 77.

Hickson was a native of Grove Hill, AL. She received her bachelor’s degree in history from Judson College in Marion, AL, in 1966; her master’s in history from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1971; and her Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina in Columbia in 1985. She was a teaching assistant while earning her doctorate and then joined North Greenville’s faculty, where she spent her entire professional teaching career as an instructor and then as a professor.

“Dr. Hickson was a superstar teacher who served among a galaxy of master teachers. As news of her passing spread on social media, tribute after tribute from former students appeared and documented how she had influenced so many lives,” said NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. “Of particular note was her role as an encourager to colleagues across campus. She has left an amazing legacy in our community, and through the history lectureship she endowed, her influence will continue to echo for generations.”

While at NGU, she was the advisor to the school newspaper staff from 1971-1976, served on several committees, and chaired several divisions and the history department. She served as a lecturer and held many offices with the National Library Association, South Carolina Baptist Historical Society, and the South Carolina Historical Society. She was a Phi Alpha Theta and NGU faculty marshal for 1985-1986 and 1997-1998. She wasnamesake for the annual NGU Shirley Hickson History Award given to an outstanding history student and for the  Boggs-Hickson History Lecture Series. She attended summer seminars at Emory University, Oxford University, Bridgewater College, and the University of Virginia, and traveled abroad to Europe. She was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Greer until she returned to Grove Hill, where she joined the First Baptist Church.

Hickson initiated the Dr. Shirley Ann Hickson Endowment Fund in 2010 to support NGU’s mission of equipping transformational leaders for church and society. A gift by history instructor Rosemary Thrasher and her husband Steven in 2019 significantly added to the fund, which now bears both retired professors’ names. The fund enhances the quality of teaching and learning in the university’s Department of History by providing financial assistance for faculty members to visit pertinent historical sites and attend professional meetings connected to the subjects taught in upper-level courses. The fund can also assist in creating new courses, bringing special speakers to campus, funding small research projects, or providing funds for student travel to participate in academic conferences.

“Dr. Shirley Hickson, my closest friend at North Greenville University for many years, set up a fund to help history professors and students extend their learning outside the classroom. I hope this will help with traveling for research, attending conferences, and going on field trips,” said Thrasher. “I wanted to support our shared vision for our history department.”

“Shirley Hickson mentored many students and created a lasting legacy of history education at North Greenville,” said Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences and Chair of the History Department Dr. H. Paul Thompson, Jr. “For several years now, the department has honored her legacy by naming the university’s first annual lecture series after her, and Robert Boggs, her colleague for about a dozen years, endowed that lecture series and made it the first endowed lecture series at North Greenville. Dr. Hickson will be missed greatly by all who knew her.”

One alumna impacted by Hickson is Joanna Beasley (’07). Beasley is currently the technical services librarian in NGU’s library.

“Dr. Hickson was a mentor to me during my time at North Greenville. She took a special interest in me because she had taught my dad in the 70s,” said Beasley. “Some of my favorite times in college were ones spent talking to Dr. Hickson outside of class. She was all business in the classroom, but when I sat in her office, we would talk about life, and I was able to get to know her better. She had a great wit and made me laugh often.”

She is survived by her brother, Charles (Nell) Hickson; niece and nephews, Sam Wimberley, Jr., Angie (Mike) Hoven, Chris (Sabrina) Wimberley; great-nieces and nephews, Colby Wimberley, Ansley (Beau) Brayars, Garrett (Brii) Hoven, Montana (Bryce) McInnis, Landon Christian and great, great-niece, Aubrey Kate Bryars.

A memorial service was conducted Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Lathan Funeral Home in Grove Hill. Please share online condolences with the family.

Memorial gifts may be made online to the Dr. Shirley Ann Hickson and Rosemary Nelson Thrasher Endowment Fund or mailing it to NGU, Office of University Advancement, PO Box 1892, Tigerville, SC, 29688-1892.

To learn more about NGU’s history program, visit


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