NGU News

NGU Announces Distinguished Professor Program and Inaugural Recipients

Posted on: February 2, 2021
By LaVerne Howell,

Gregory Bruce sitting on desk teaching a classroom full of studentsTigerville, SC (September 3, 2019) North Greenville University (NGU) has established a new Distinguished Professor Program this fall. The program is designed to recognize long-term faculty members and recruit new faculty members with exemplary track records in Christ-centered teaching, scholarship, and service.

“The Distinguished Professor Program results from donor interest in supporting academics and affirming the role that NGU faculty have in the intellectual discipleship of our students. This program allows us to recognize and affirm the best of the best, faculty who have built a career out of cultivating a legacy of students who have become transformational leaders,” said NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. “This inaugural group of recipients represents a breadth of disciplines, showing just how diverse the understanding of academia as a true calling from God can be. We are grateful for the donors who have made this happen, for the recipients’ dedication to NGU, and for the future students who will have the opportunity to learn from this distinguished group, which will only grow in the coming years.”

Distinguished professors are appointed for two or three-year terms, during which time they receive an additional annual stipend and an annual budget for professional development. Each distinguished professor is expected to produce a work of scholarship that makes a contribution to their academic discipline or to design and implement a project to promote the integration of faith and learning among faculty and/or students in their academic department. Distinguished professors are appointed from across the disciplines, and no college can house more than one distinguished professor in a given year.

“The Distinguished Professor Program is one of the key ways we are advancing our core values of Christ-Centered, Biblically Faithful, Academically Excellent, and Mission-Focused among our faculty,” said NGU Provost and Dean of the University Faculty Dr. Nathan A. Finn. “Our inaugural class of distinguished professors are each role models of faculty excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. I have no doubt this program will play a key role in further promoting the integration of faith and learning across our faculty, which will in turn help our faculty to more faithfully educate students to be transformational leaders for church and society.”

The first four distinguished professors are Distinguished Professor of Education Dr. Jill Branyon, Distinguished Professor of English Dr. Greg Bruce, Distinguished Professor of Christian Studies Dr. Ken Hemphill, and Distinguished Professor of Management Dr. Rick Martinez.

Profile Image for Jill BranyonJill Branyon, Ed. D.
Distinguished Professor of Education

Branyon serves as the coordinator of the mathematics secondary education program at NGU. She earned her doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She taught in Lexington, S.C., and in Kenya, Africa, before coming to NGU. Branyon enjoys mission work and encourages her students to consider serving as missionaries and/or teaching abroad in addition to holding their teaching jobs in the U.S.

“I firmly believe that teaching is one of the highest callings from God. Teaching is a sacred trust and Jesus is our prime example. If my students are not learning and becoming skilled teachers, then I have to ask myself, what can I do differently,” said Branyon. “As one of the faculty who works with assessment data, I always ask myself, how we can improve in this area or that area.”

Profile Image for Gregory Bruce, ProfessorGregory Bruce, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of English

Bruce serves as the program coordinator of the interdisciplinary studies B.A. Degree and professor of English. He has received numerous teaching awards, and his scholarship ranges from Christianity and culture to poetics and pedagogy. He also teaches in the English and Honors Programs at NGU, and he has a long-anticipated book of poetry on the way.

“First of all, Dr. Fant’s strong commitment to these awards is in keeping with his emphasis on our becoming a leading Christian liberal arts university. Second, it is truly an honor and a privilege to be one of the first recipients. I am inspired like never before to use my research to enhance the integration of faith and learning in the classroom and in our learning communities,” Bruce said.

Ken Hemphill, Ph.D.Profile image for Ken Hemphill
Distinguished Professor of Christian Studies

Current special assistant to the NGU President, Hemphill’s ministry positions have ranged from youth ministry and pastorates to the Director of the Southern Baptist Center of Church Growth, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth for the Southern Baptist Convention, and currently the Founding Director of the Church Planting and Revitalization Center of NGU. Hemphill is the author of 38 books and many articles. He is also the Founder and President of Auxano Press which publishes non-disposable curricula to assist churches in the revitalization process.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be named Distinguished Professor of Christian Studies at North Greenville University. In our increasingly secular culture, quality education taught from a Christian worldview in a caring community environment is a vital component in the training of transformational leaders for church and community,” said Hemphill. “North Greenville provides a unique blend of the components that make it a community of faith and learning. It is an honor to be associated with such a Christ-centered institution.”

Rick Martinez, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Management

Profile Image for Rick MartinezMartinez joined the NGU faculty in August 2019 to serve as associate dean of the Undergraduate Business Programs in the College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Prior to coming to NGU, Martinez served in numerous faculty and administrative roles at Baylor University, Houston Baptist University, and Oklahoma Baptist University, as well as assistant VP for academic affairs at Charleston Southern University. He has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, and has also served in numerous editorial roles. Prior to his academic career, Martinez spent six years in the U.S. Navy operating nuclear power plants on surface ships.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the NGU community, and greatly honored to be recognized in this way. As one of the Distinguished Professors at NGU, I hope that I can continue to serve my students and colleagues in a way that brings glory to God,” said Martinez.

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