Isgett Retires After Almost Three Decades of Service to NGU
North Greenville University said goodbye to a 26-year veteran on May 30, as Dr. J. Samuel Isgett, vice president of adult and graduate studies, ended his almost three-decade career in higher education.
After graduating with his Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, in 1977, he began serving as pastor at First Baptist in Hartsville, IN. He then served at First Baptist in Ravenel, Nichols Baptist in Nichols, and Harrison Hills Baptist in Lanesville, IN, while working on his Doctor of Pastoral Ministries and Doctor of Philosophy at Southern Seminary.
After earning his doctorates, he taught “The Biblical World” classes in the continuing education division of University of Louisville in Louisville, KY, and taught ethics classes in the philosophy department of Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY.
Isgett came to NGU from Georgetown College in 1991 as dean, where he directed all matters pertaining to academic and student affairs of the college. He provided principal leadership in designing the college’s four-year academic programs, gaining accreditation for these programs, and hiring faculty for the programs, as well as serving as a professor in the Christian studies division. These varied activities at NGU enabled him to touch on virtually every major aspect of college administration.
In 1996, he was named NGU’s executive director for academic planning and assessment, where he was the chief administrative officer responsible for all matters pertaining to assessment, evaluation, and planning for academic programs and overall institutional effectiveness.
In 2004, he was named vice president for adult and graduate studies, where he developed curriculum and led accreditation process for move to Level III and Level V status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). He was then responsible for directing the Fairview Campus in Greer, which was the dedicated location for the T. Walter Brashier Graduate School and the College of Adult and Professional Studies (CAPS) online adult education program. He hired all faculty and staff for these programs and supervised the work of the graduate school program deans. He taught professional ethics courses in the graduate school and led the graduate school to offer degree programs in online format.
The latest program additions he was instrumental in starting were the Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant and the Doctor of Education in either K-12 Leadership or Higher Education Leadership housed at the new campus site in Greer. He continued to develop future plans for program expansion and development until his retirement.
Of all his accomplishments, he is most proud of starting the graduate school.
“I think I’m most proud of starting the grad school from scratch. I had a lot of opportunities over the years to accomplish things working ‘without a net.’ Taking NGU from a two-year college to a doctoral degree-granting university is pretty sweet,” Isgett said. “Having said that, I have had the support of some amazing faculty and staff at every level. Some of these were already at NGU, like Dr. Jackie Griffin and Dr. Wilson Cooke. Others, I had the privilege to hire, such as Dr. Walter Johnson, Dr. Larry McDonald, Dr. Shelley Dugle, and Dr. Greg Davenport, among so many others. All of these are consummate professionals, and, more importantly, wonderful Christian scholars.”
Isgett said that, next to his wife, he owes an incredible debt of gratitude to four ladies who meant so much to him as his administrative assistants: Shirley Bayne, Angie Watson, Corletta Brown, and Suzanne Sellers. He says no one can imagine how invaluable they were to him, “whether it was ‘training’ me as Shirley did, or keeping me on the straight and narrow as the others did.”
NGU gave him the privilege to work alongside these and dozens more outstanding human beings, specifically his colleagues on the Executive Council.
“These are some of the most dedicated, hardworking people I have ever known. I count it a privilege to have worked alongside these men and women,” Isgett said.
When asked about one of his funniest moments while at NGU, he recalls, “A couple of funny moments involved Mrs. Elaine King, former VP for business affairs. There was the time she, Dr. Epting, and I were driving back from a critical SACS meeting in Norfolk, VA, when we received initial approval to move forward as a four-year school. Somewhere between Charlotte, NC, and here, the fuel light came on the dash of the old Oldsmobile president’s car. She got so upset and fearful we would run out of gas and be stuck on the side of the highway. I almost died laughing.”
“A couple of years later, I was in my office one afternoon, which was then across the hall from the business office. I heard this frightful screaming. Thinking someone had been injured, I raced across to Mrs. King’s office only to find her on top of her desk, shrieking in terror because a mouse had run across the floor. Needless to say, again I almost fell out from laughing. Mrs. King was one of the most committed people to NGU I ever worked with, and I know she had a great sense of humor about these things,” he said.
His wife, Bunny, worked for NGU for 23 years as an instructor and coordinator of disability services.
“She still gets excited when one of her former students does well in life,” Isgett said.
So, what’s next for Isgett?
“Well, Bunny is still working on that honey-do list. I’m sure she will spring it on me any day. In the meantime, those grandchildren aren’t going to visit themselves. So, I know there will be a lot of that. I’m also probably going to do some consulting, especially for schools facing accreditation challenges,” he said.
In addition, he’s chairing an off-site SACSCOC committee in November. Then, of course, there is still a lot of golf that needs playing, and he’ll try to do his part.
And, he says, “Just maybe, I have a book in me.”
Photo: From left: Bunny Isgett and Dr. J. Samuel Isgett
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