By Bob Allen
Baptist-affiliated North Greenville University issued a statement saying its leaders are expected to lead Christ-centered lives after a video posted on YouTube showed what appeared to be a confrontation between the former president and his son over an alleged affair the father was having with a member of the university staff.
University officials acknowledged Aug. 27 they were aware of the video involving former President James “Jimmy” Epting. The Greenville News, which obtained its own copy of the video, reported that the date stamp is Oct. 30, 2014.
That is more than two months before the university announced in January that Epting would take a sabbatical for the 2015 spring semester and retire in May, citing “a variety of reasons, including health concerns.”
The cell-phone video begins with a man identified elsewhere as Paul Epting speaking into the camera: “Here we go. Probably be a bad day.”
The videographer proceeds across a lawn and uses a key to unlock the back door of a private home. He enters and goes upstairs, where he is greeted by Jimmy Epting: “Hey, buddy.”
Paul Epting brushes past his father down a hallway, asking, “Where is she?” He finds a woman who appears to be hiding in a bathroom and addresses her by first name.
Jimmy Epting starts to say something, but Paul interrupts: “No, I know exactly what you’re doing. Why? It’s over, Dad. This is done. I’ve got you on video [pointing the camera at Jimmy]. I’ve got you on video [pointing it at the woman]. It’s done.”
After leaders met Thursday for several hours behind closed doors, Beverly Hawkins, chair of North Greenville University board of trustees, released a statement to local media saying:
“North Greenville University’s leaders are expected to lead Christ-centered lives and abide by all campus policies and procedures. The administration and faculty on campus today reflect our legal, moral and ethical expectations. We take our responsibilities as leaders of a Christian institution seriously and hold each member of our community to the highest of standards.
“As an institution, our promise is to combine an academic environment with a Christ-like lifestyle and provide students with opportunities for spiritual growth, academic training and Christian service.
“We will continue to focus our efforts on celebrating the start of the academic year with our students and ask that we be allowed to focus on the traditions of our campus and our bright future as a community.”
Epting served as president at North Greenville for 24 years and has been credited with turning the Christian school affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention around.
When he came as president in 1991, North Greenville was a two-year college with a dwindling enrollment that had bottomed out at 329 and was on the brink of closing. After moving to a four-year institution, enrollment climbed for 18 consecutive years and last fall totaled 2,632 undergraduate, graduate and online students. Two major fund-raising initiatives put the budget into black.
“Most importantly, we have over 300 students each year accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” Epting said in a January story in Baptist Press about his retirement. “Also, we are always ranked as one of the top schools for student summer missionaries among all public and private schools in the nation.”
“[A] North Greenville University education is more than just going to class,” Epting continued. “It is about the heart as well as the mind. When the student comes here, we want each one to either get saved for the first time in their life, or if they’re already saved, to grow stronger in their walk and graduate.”
A Greenville News story about Epting’s retirement in January quoted Randall Pannell, NGU’s chief academic officer later named interim president, saying the president and the board had been weighing his retirement plans for a while, and “this seemed to be the best time for him.”
The university celebrated Epting’s leadership at a chapel service and luncheon in April attended by hundreds of students, friends and family members. School and community leaders celebrated his accomplishments, and the South Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities presented a resolution celebrating his life and leadership.
It’s unclear why the video was posted on Aug. 26. “I did not film this,” says a blurb introducing the video titled Dr. Epting Exposed. “I simply uploaded it to YouTube to make it easier for people to find. The original video was uploaded to vid.me but was deleted.”
Asked if action had been taken against any university employees shown in the video, NGU spokesman LaVerne Howell told the Greenville News the university would not comment on personnel decisions.
This article has been edited. The original article included additional information about Bob Jones University.