NGU News

Johnson Encourages Graduates to Ponder Legacy They Will Leave

Posted on: May 3, 2024
By Billy Cannada,

Tigerville, SCImplored to live a life in service to the Lord, 301 North Greenville University students had their degrees conferred during Spring Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 3, at Melvin and Dollie Younts Stadium.  

Dr. Walter Johnson, founding dean of NGU’s College of Christian Studies, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, which capped the academic year at the private university. 

Johnson has served at North Greenville for 32 years and is retiring from his role this month. 

Following a welcome by NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr., William C. Tyler, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, delivered the invocation. 

Graduating seniors Graham Ford and Giorgiana Hunte read passages from Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Matthew 5: 14-16 before the Commencement address to graduates and guests.  

Johnson opened his remarks by reading 2 Timothy 4:7, which says “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” 

“When Paul wrote this, he was looking retrospectively. What I want us to do is look forward at our own lives,” Johnson said. “Look at this verse prospectively. Look at it in the future.” 

The Greenville native recalled a question his second-grade teacher asked when he visited her in the hospital 30 years after she had taught him. 

“‘Was I a good teacher?’ That’s the question that an 85-year-old sitting on the side of a hospital bed is going to ask,” he said. “Two things came to mind. The first is ‘that is a very important question.’ The second thought was ‘now is not the time to have asked that question.’ The time to have asked that question was every day that you walked into that classroom.” 

Johnson told graduates they are going to be wondering the same things about their lives.  

“One day when you’re 85 years old and you’re sitting in a hospital room, you’re going to want to know if you did a good job. Were you a good husband or a good wife? Were you a good employer or employee. Were you a good father or a good mother? Whatever place God puts you in to serve, on that day you’re going to want to know, did you do a good job?” 

The assurance of a life well-lived, Johnson said, comes from serving the Lord each day. He recalled another interaction he had with a former teacher—this time his high school chemistry teacher, who had spent decades on mission performing dental work for those in need overseas. 

“This is how you live your life, by getting up every day and praying ‘God help me today to please you.’ When you do that, you’ll come to that day and you’ll have a joy in your heart that you will be thankful for,” he said. 

“Resolve in your heart right now—I am going to give God my best every moment of every day.” 

Retiring from his role after more than three decades as a professor and academic administrator at NGU, Johnson was surprised with the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Divine Letters “in recognition for his classroom excellence, his dedication to serving our community, and his commitment to kingdom work that has been his lifelong passion.” 

“Dr. Johnson is known as a mentor all across the state,” said President Fant. “He has taught probably as many, if not more, students than anybody who has ever taught at the university. He has been deeply influential for so many.” 

Johnson said he was thankful for his tenure of service in Tigerville. 

“North Greenville University is the place to be,” Johnson said. “It has been a great ride. I’m thankful for it. And if I had the opportunity, I’d do it all over again. It has been a blessing.” 

Following conferring of degrees, Dr. Brian Autry led attendees in a Blessing of the Graduates and graduating seniors Jaylan Brinson and Caden Brannen led the singing of the Alma Mater.

Dr. Kayla Black, director of the Honors Program at NGU, delivered the benediction.  

Spring Commencement concluded with a celebratory firework display. 



Graduate Spotlight 

Lance Calcutt ’24 

“Some of the greatest advice I got in high school was to go get involved—no matter where you end up.” 

Those are the words of Lance Calcutt, who earned his Master of Organizational Leadership from North Greenville University Friday night at Younts Stadium in Tigerville.  

Calcutt, a native of Walterboro, SC, spent Thursday afternoon packing up his things at North Greenville University’s admissions office, where he had been serving as a graduate assistant.  

Now with plans to join the United States Air Force and begin medical school at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg, Calcutt spent some time reflecting on his time at NGU.   

“When I got here, I fell in love with this place,” he said. “Our core values sum up what we’re about. If you want to surround yourself with faculty, staff, students, and leadership who care about you and want to see you succeed, this is the right place.” 

Calcutt always had an idea of what his calling might be, but through his coursework, that calling was confirmed. 

“I come from a household of physicians. Both my parents are physicians and my sister just graduated from North Greenville’s PA school. For a while, it wasn’t something I wanted to do, but the more I dug into my biology courses, the more I became fascinated by God’s greatest creation—the human body. I started feeling called to medicine, and more specifically, surgery,” he said. 

Military service was also a priority for Calcutt. 

I’ve always thought it would be cool to serve my country. I just didn’t know in what capacity I could do so because I also wanted to pursue medicine,” he said. 

Calcutt managed to find a scholarship program within the Air Force that would allow him to serve his country as a physician will pursuing his career.  

Hard work has always been the formula for success for Calcutt, who joined North Greenville’s football team as a walk-on punter and worked his way to an all-conference selection during his final year of eligibility. His time on the field and working as a graduate assistant have helped him develop the leadership skills he will need for his path ahead. 

“Being in a position of leadership is tough sometimes,” he said. “Tensions can run high, and you can have a lot of different opinions. You have to learn how to truly care for people and love them.” 

Calcutt’s advice to North Greenville students is the same advice he got as a high school senior: get involved.  

“The best parts of college are not found sitting in your room. You have to branch out. “Walking into the cafeteria at North Greenville, I can always find someone to sit with that I know. But it’s also important to find people you don’t know and make a new friend. That’s the beauty of North Greenville’s community and It’s why I love it so much,” he said. 

Calcutt said NGU served as the perfect springboard for his career.  

“Whether you want to become the next politician or physician, North Greenville is going to prepare you for the next step in your life,” he said. 

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