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Neves Family Legacy to be honored at NGU Founders' Day recognition

Neves Hall

Tigerville, SC (September 21, 2020) North Greenville University (NGU) will celebrate its storied history of 128 years of existence on Founders' Day, Wednesday, Sept. 23. At the same time, the University will highlight a bright, hopeful, visionary future with the completion of the newly renovated NGUcentral in Neves Academic Hall.

The second-oldest building on campus after White Hall, Neves Hall was constructed from 1944 to 1945 when North Greenville’s board voted to build a “new building for the dining room and kitchen.” A willing heart, commitment, sacrifice, and faith in God unfolds the story of a founding family that brought light to the Dark Corner to meet the needs of students.

A significant renovation to historic Neves Hall this summer converted most of the main floor of the building into the home for the University's Student Services Division, which includes Financial Aid, Academic Records, and Student Accounts. The three offices are coordinated through an NGUcentral hub, allowing students to address academic, aid, and billing matters in a one-stop setting. As a result, students can check off their to-do lists through enhanced internal collaboration and improved communication with students and their families.

And that's been the defining feature of Neves Hall ever since its original construction – to better serve NGU students and their families with the level of excellence modeled in Christ.

Benjamin F. Neves

Neves Hall was officially named "B.F. Neves Dining Hall" in memory of long-time benefactor Benjamin F. Neves. Nearly 130 years ago, Neves, the youngest of 10 children, committed himself to meet the needs of his community while striving toward a more excellent future.

The Founders' Day recognition will celebrate Neves' legacy of support for North Greenville students, dating back to 1892 when he gave 10 acres of land and $500 to launch the institution. He also assisted with tuition, provided employment opportunities for students, donated timber that was blown down on his property to use in constructing Howard Hall and Neves Hall. He even relocated his family from a large home to a smaller house to provide additional housing space.

Members of the Neves family plan to attend the Founders' Day ceremony. Dr. Brian Spearman, a three-time NGU alumnus and great-great-great nephew of B.F., has already walked through the new facility.

"The new building is absolutely amazing. As I walked through and talked to office staff, it sets our school on a different level," Spearman said. "Honestly, seeing the new classrooms for me was a blessing. Seeing students learn in a building that I used to eat in when it was the cafeteria as a student was just really moving."

Spearman is excited to see that NGU recognizes those who made the school a possibility so many years ago. "To think of all the individuals whose lives have been changed forever because of people giving to the school. The land donation was enormous in making North Greenville a reality."

Other members of Mr. Neves' family also have a place in the NGU story.

Rose Neves Clayton

Rose Neves Clayton, a niece of B.F. and a 1920 North Greenville Academy graduate, served 20 years as North Greenville's nurse. She knew her Christian calling was to medicine and, after graduating from the Academy, went on to Brevard College and Nashville, where she began her nursing training at Vanderbilt Medical University Hospital. She was called home from Vanderbilt because of her father's illness and then completed her nursing degree at the Baptist Hospital in Columbia.

She was assigned through the International Mission Board to San Jose, Costa Rica, to build a mission hospital. She remained there for five years when she became ill and had to come home. She intended to go back but never did.

Once she was home, she worked for Greenstreet Baptist Church as a nurse and community mission work in the Spartanburg area. She met her husband, Eber Clayton, and they had a son, Neves Clayton. Eber passed away when Neves was young, so Rose had to fall back on her nursing to support her family.

She worked as the nurse for summer camps at the then North Greenville College when she met Dr. M. C. Donnan. He saw her working over the summer and invited her to be the permanent nurse at North Greenville.

For a while, she and her son lived in an apartment under the stage of the old auditorium. The music department occupied the other half until the construction of Turner Auditorium. She set up a clinic when the music department moved to Turner Auditorium, now Turner Chapel, when it was built. The Greer hospital sold her five used beds for fifty cents each.

When the modern clinic was built, new equipment was brought in, and Clayton lived in the apartment in the clinic until she retired in 1976.  She passed away in 2002 at the age of 99. 

According to her son's interview for an Alumni Newsletter publication in 2003, he says his mom was known for her sore throat remedy, which the students hated. She would take a long cotton swab, drizzle the medicine on it, and swab the back of the student's throat.

From its founding, Neves Hall blended historic tradition with an innovative future. The Neves family legacies will live on, continuing to serve students. And although it was remodeled and repurposed several times over the years, it has never lost its central identity as a cherished NGU landmark. The work demonstrates the University's commitment to keeping Neves Hall – and the Neves' name itself – an integral part of the NGU campus and story. While the new purpose is different, it is built upon a history of dedicated service and faithful stewardship.

The keynote speaker for Founders’ Day chapel will be NGU alumnus and Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Travis Agnew, senior pastor at Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville. The University is looking forward to a great time of celebration on September 23. Please join us online at 1p.m. for live streaming of the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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