Longtime NGU Supporter Eleanor Hayes Dies
Posted on: February 5, 2023
Tigerville, SC (February 5, 2023) Long-time North Greenville University supporter Eleanor Laura Smith Hayes died Saturday, February 4, at her home in Travelers Rest, SC. She was 94.
“Eleanor Hayes was a vital member of the North Greenville University community,” said NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. “She encouraged our students, our faculty and our staff through her support and her exemplary Christ-honoring life. She was always thinking of ways to bless others, facilitating ministry for God’s glory.”
Reared in Anderson, SC, Eleanor attended Anderson College. She married Joe Frank Hayes from nearby Starr, SC, on March 20, 1948. The Hayeses lived in Charlotte, NC, before returning to the Upstate in 1957. Joe Hayes founded Hayes Food Products in Greenville in 1958. The family moved to Hayes Star Ranch in Travelers Rest in 1970 and joined Locust Hill Baptist Church.
Mrs. Hayes’ connection to North Greenville traces back to the 1960s, spanning the tenures of all of the university presidents. Her husband was a life trustee at North Greenville. The couple was consistently engaged in the growth and success of the university. They had been married for 70 years when her husband died January 16, 2019. Mrs. Hayes continued active support for NGU students up to her passing.
The Hayeses also actively supported other ministry and service organizations. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored Eleanor and Joe with the B.H. Carroll Founder’s Day Award, the seminary’s highest honor, in 1996.
“Eleanor Hayes and her husband were a divinely empowered force for Christ’s kingdom. God used their faithfulness and generosity to strengthen our mission in immeasurable ways,” said President Fant. “They invested in the lives of our students. More importantly, Mrs. Hayes was the matriarch of a family of faithful followers of Christ. So many of her children and grandchildren are actively serving in Christ-honoring ministry roles today. Her legacy will live on for generations.”
The Hayeses’ support of NGU is apparent across campus facilities. In the 1970s, the Hayeses 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. After her husband’s passing, Mrs. Hayes carried on the tradition they began three decades ago, serving as sole benefactors of Joyful Sound’s annual recording project and providing funding for transportation and equipment.
In the late 1990s, in recognition of the Hayeses’ 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 Admissions and Moore Hall, a heavily utilized event space.
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.
Mrs. Hayes was a faithful member of Locust Hill Baptist Church, where her daughter and son-in-law, Katina and Ray Riley, serve in senior adult ministry.
She was preceded in death by her husband, and by a son, Dr. David C. Hayes. She is survived by two daughters, Nancy Jane Holcombe and Katina Hayes Riley (Ray); two sons, Rev. Joe Frank Hayes, Jr. (Elaine) and Thomas Richard Hayes, daughter-in-law, Debbie Hayes, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visitation for the family will be on Tuesday, February 7, from 1-2:30 pm. at Locust Hill Baptist Church, 5534 Locust Hill Road in Travelers Rest. The memorial service will follow at 3 p.m. 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 and flags on both NGU campuses have been lowered to half-staff until after the memorial service.