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Longtime NGU leader, donor Dr. Joe F. Hayes, Sr. dies

Tigerville, SC (January 16, 2019)  Prominent North Greenville University (NGU) leader and donor Dr. Joe Frank Hayes, Sr., who was involved with the university for more than 40 years, died January 16, 2019 at his Travelers Rest home. He was 90.

Hayes, who was a successful businessman as president and owner of Hayes Food Products, Inc., served on the university’s board of trustees. Also, he and his wife, Eleanor, actively supported many initiatives at North Greenville throughout his life.

“Dr. Hayes was a transformational leader whose life and gifts intersected with the mission of North Greenville University time and time again through the decades. Few people have as stout of a legacy at this university as do Joe and his beloved wife Eleanor,” said NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. “His passion for Christ-first education and for the local church are a part of our institutional DNA, and he will be missed deeply, even as we praise God for the heavenly homecoming he’s experiencing now.”

Hayes’ generosity and commitment to North Greenville spanned the tenures of all university presidents. He was a member of the university’s board of trustees for four decades beginning in 1969. He was nominated and approved as a Lifetime Board Member in 1992. He assisted in organizing the university's Council of Advisors, and was inducted into NGU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. 

In the 1970s, Hayes provided funding to renovate and to provide additional space to the North Greenville Gymnasium. The renovations were dedicated on November 13, 1975 as the Joe F. Hayes, Sr. Gymnasium.  The Hayes family also provided funding to support a range of university priorities, from athletics and undergraduate scholarships to their continued support of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries’ traveling musical group Joyful Sound. The Hayeses were the sole benefactors of Joyful Sound’s annual recording project and provided funding for transportation and equipment.

“Dr. and Mrs. Hayes loved Joyful Sound. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with us as part of Joyful Sound’s 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert in 2003,” said Mayson Easterling, NGU’s executive director of church relations and special assistant to the president for church engagement. “When I think about Joe and Eleanor Hayes and their love for North Greenville University, I am especially grateful that they stood by us through good times and bad.  They never gave up on NGU. If not for them and a handful of others, North Greenville might not be here today.”

In the late 1990s, in recognition of the Hayes’ financial support, NGU honored the couple with the naming of the Joe Frank and Eleanor Hayes Ministry/Welcome Center which currently houses the Office of Enrollment Services. In 1998, the university awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters during May Commencement exercises for his distinguished volunteer leadership service and financial support.

The Hayeses provided the lead gift to construct the Hayes Christian Fine Arts Center. Completed in 2001, the center provides studio, classroom, choir room, music library, band rehearsal hall, and recital hall space. They also provided the prayer benches in the Todd Prayer Chapel in 2012, and the Joe F. Hayes, Jr. Rose Garden in honor of their son, Rev. Joe F. Hayes, Jr., in 2014.

A noted civic leader, Hayes was active in many community and denominational organizations. He was a past president of Greenville Civitan Club, past chairman of the Salvation Army Council, and past chairman of Boys Home of the South, and served on the Blue Ridge Boy Scout Council, and the 1910 Society. He was a member of the advisory council of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and received the seminary’s highest honor, the B.H. Carroll Founders Award, in 1996. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the most prestigious honor presented by the state of South Carolina, in 1998. He was a Life Member of Clemson’s IPTAY and of Hiram Lodge #68.

He was a faithful member of Locust Hill Baptist Church, where he was named the 1997 Father of the Year. He served as deacon and chairman of the constitution and by-laws committee.

“Dr. Hayes was a beloved and cherished friend to many of us at North Greenville University,” said NGU Board of Trustee Chairman David Charpia. “Dr. Hayes combined decades of distinguished volunteer leadership at North Greenville with exemplary stewardship and invaluable counsel.”

In lieu of flowers, the Hayes family asks that donations be made in his name to North Greenville University, P.O. Box 1892, Tigerville, SC, 29688, Locust Hill Baptist Church, P.O. Box 759, Travelers Rest, SC 291690 or Starr Baptist Church, P.O. Box 137, Starr, SC 29684.

Visitation for the family will be held Sat., Jan. 19 at Locust Hill Baptist Church in Travelers Rest from 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm. The memorial service will follow at 3 pm with burial in the church cemetery. A wreath has been placed on the front door of the Joe Frank and Eleanor Hayes Ministry/Welcome Center on the Tigerville campus as well as flags on both NGU campuses have been lowered to half-staff until after the memorial service.  

Photo: Dr. Joe Frank Sr. and Eleanor Hayes at the dedication of the Rev. Joe F. Hayes, Jr. Rose Garden on the North Greenville University campus in 2014. A successful businessman, Hayes served as a lifetime trustee of the university’s board of trustees during his decades-long involvement with the university. 


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