Mars Hill University

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Mars Hill University
MarsHillCollege Seal.png
Motto Pro Christo Adolescentibusque "For Christ and For Youth"
Type Private
Established 1856
Endowment $50 million[1]
President Tony Floyd, J.D.
Students 1,395[2]
Location , ,
United States
Colors Blue and gold[3]
Athletics NCAA Division II
Nickname Mountain Lions
Affiliations South Atlantic Conference, National Collegiate Cycling Association
Mars Hill University Seal.png
Mars Hill College Historic District
Mars Hill University is located in North Carolina
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill University is located in the US
Mars Hill University
Location Bet. Bailey and Cascade Sts. N and S, Mars Hill, North Carolina, United States
Area 27.2 acres (11.0 ha)
Built 1892
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, etc.
NRHP reference # 06000865[4]
Added to NRHP September 12, 2006

Mars Hill University is a private, coed, liberal arts university. The university is located in the town of Mars Hill, North Carolina, 15 miles (24 km) north of Asheville. The university is part of the Asheville metropolitan area. Mars Hill University offers 35 majors, including a school of nursing and graduate schools in education, criminal justice, and management.[5] U.S. News & World Report, in its annual review of the nation's best colleges and universities, ranked Mars Hill among the Top 25 Southern Regional Colleges for 2018, and it was listed among the Top 20 "Best Value Schools" in the Southeast for 2018.[2] In 2016, Washington Monthly placed Mars Hill among its Top 25 National Universities (Bachelor) out of 230 surveyed.[6] From 1859 to 2013 the school was called Mars Hill College; in August 2013 it officially changed its name to Mars Hill University.[7]


Mars Hill University was founded in 1856, and it is the oldest college or university in western North Carolina.[8] It started as the French Broad Baptist Institute, sharing a name with the nearby French Broad River. In 1859, the university changed its name to Mars Hill, in honor of the hill in ancient Athens on which the Apostle Paul debated Christianity with the city's leading philosophers. During the American Civil War the university was closed for two years, but it reopened after the war. From 1897 to 1938 the university, under the leadership of Dr. Robert Moore, enjoyed substantial financial and physical growth. In 1921 Mars Hill became an accredited junior college. Dr. Hoyt Blackwell served as president from 1938 to 1966, and under his leadership Mars Hill became an accredited four-year college in 1962.[9] From 1966–1996 Dr. Fred Bentley served as the college's president. Dr. Bentley was, at the time of his appointment in 1966, one of the youngest college presidents in the United States.[10]

Dr. Dan Lunsford, a 1969 graduate of MHU, served as university president from 2002 to 2018. Under Dr. Lunsford, Mars Hill University constructed three new dormitories,[11] a new health sciences building to house its nursing program,[12] a new classroom building to house the business department (the most popular major on campus),[13] completely renovated and greatly expanded the math and sciences classroom building,[14] upgraded its athletic facilities, tripled its endowment, increased its student enrollment, and started a graduate school in education.[15]

In June 2018, John Anthony "Tony" Floyd became the university's sixth president in 121 years.[16] He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the University of South Carolina, and a Juris Doctor from Campbell University. After practicing law for 23 years, he served as legal counsel and Executive Vice President at Coker College from 2012 to 2018.[16]

Mars Hill is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor's and master's degrees, and is an affiliate of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Council of Independent Colleges, the Appalachian College Association, and other similar organizations.[17]

Mars Hill University today

The university's enrollment is typically around 1,200 traditional students, with more than 200 students in its nontraditional degree program.[18] In its annual survey of "America's Best Colleges", U.S. News and World Report ranks Mars Hill among the South's Top 25 Regional Colleges.[2] U.S. News also rates Mars Hill as one of the Top 10 "Best Colleges for Veterans" in the South, based on its participation in "federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees."[19] In 2012 and 2014 Mars Hill also ranked among the Top 20 baccalaureate colleges (out of 100 surveyed) in Washington Monthly's annual survey of the nations' best colleges.[20][21] In 2015 Washington Monthly ranked Mars Hill 23rd nationally out of 344 baccalaureate colleges surveyed; in 2016 it ranked 24th nationally out of 230 baccalaureate colleges surveyed.[22][6] Mars Hill has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll five times since the award's inception in 2006, including twice "with distinction" for general community service.

The university offers seven degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Social Work, and Master of Education), and 35 majors. In May 2013 the university awarded its first M.Ed degrees.[23] In August 2016 the university opened its new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.[24] The most popular majors are in the fields of business administration and management, education, social work, physical education teaching and coaching, and general psychology.[18] The university is also known for its excellent departments in music and other fine arts.[25] In 1932 Lamar Stringfield, a Mars Hill alumnus, formed the North Carolina Symphony, the first state-supported orchestra in the nation.[26] The "Bailey Mountain Cloggers", the university's dance team, have won 23 national championships in clogging,[27] and they have performed all over the United States and internationally in Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, France, Greece, Poland, and the Czech Republic.[27] In 2002 the university opened the Ramsey Center for Regional Studies. Named after an alumnus who served a record four terms as the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, the center is dedicated to preserving the heritage and culture of the people of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

The university has a scenic 194-acre (0.8 km2) campus; most of the dormitories are located atop two hills, named "men's hill" and "women's hill". The main campus is located in a small valley between the two hills. The university is surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains; from various points on campus, it is possible to see Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Bailey Mountain (nicknamed "Old Bailey") is located about a mile (1.5 km) northwest from campus and is a local landmark. Interstate 26 is located one mile east of the university, and provides access to the nearby cities of Asheville, North Carolina, to the south, and Johnson City, Tennessee to the north.

In 2008, Mars Hill gained autonomy from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina when the state convention voted to eliminate the requirement that it have final approval over who could serve as trustees for the school; this ruling allows the university to choose non-Baptists as trustees.[28] The state convention also agreed to start transferring funds traditionally given directly to the university into a new scholarship fund for Baptist students. The move was made in conjunction with the four other remaining N.C. Baptist Colleges – Gardner–Webb University, Campbell University, Wingate University, and Chowan University. The university, while acknowledging its Baptist roots, is no longer directly associated with any Baptist church or organization, but proclaims in its mission statement that it "is an academic community rooted in the Christian faith", and that the university is "committed to an emphasis on service and Christian ethics."[29] The college yearbook is called the Laurel, the college literary magazine is the Cadenza, and the college newspaper is The Hilltop.[30]


The university is a Division II member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and it is also a member of the South Atlantic Conference. Mars Hill's sports mascot is the mountain lion; the university's colors are royal blue and gold.[31] In May 2011 the cycling team won the USA Cycling Collegiate Division II national championship.[32] In 2012 they finished in second place nationally, and in May 2015 the Mars Hill cycling team finished the season ranked in first place nationally among Division II teams.

In December 2011, Mars Hill running back Jonas Randolph won the prestigious Harlon Hill Trophy, which is given each year to the best player in NCAA Division II football.[33] The men's cross country team have also been highly successful over the last two decades; from 1997 to 2014 they won 18 straight conference championships; in 2016 they won their 19th conference championship. In 2014 the men's cross country team won the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional championship and advanced to the Division II national championship meet, and in 2015 they finished in second place in the Division II Southeast Regional championship and advanced to the Division II national meet.[34][35] In June 2017, Nathan Jones, a member of the Mars Hill cross country team, won the South Atlantic Conference Man of the Year Award.[36]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "Small WNC colleges work to increase enrollment, revenue - Carolina Public Press". 17 September 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-03-21.
  3. ^ "Mars Hill University Identity Guidelines". Archived from the original on 2017-10-07. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  4. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ (
  6. ^ a b "2016 College Guide and Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  8. ^ (
  9. ^ (
  10. ^ (
  11. ^ "Mars Hill president to retire in 2018". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  12. ^ (
  13. ^ (
  14. ^ (
  15. ^ (
  16. ^ a b "President's Office - Mars Hill University". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Accreditations - Mars Hill University". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-28. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-06. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-27. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  22. ^ "College Guide Rankings 2015 – Baccalaureate Colleges". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-02. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-13. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  25. ^ "About". Mars Hill University Department of Music. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Lamar Stringfield - Encyclopedia of Appalachia". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  27. ^ a b "Bailey Mountain Cloggers". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  28. ^ [1][dead link]
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-13. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-24. Retrieved 2016-07-02.
  31. ^ "Quick Facts". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  32. ^ "May - 2011 - MARS HILL CYCLING". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  33. ^ "Randolph Wins 2011 Harlon Hill Trophy". 16 December 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  34. ^ "Lions Seek 19th Consecutive SAC Title on Saturday". 22 October 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  35. ^ "Lions Prepare for NCAA Championship Meet". 20 November 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  36. ^ "Jones Named South Atlantic Conference Man of the Year". 28 June 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Houston wins national coach of the year award". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2016-04-18.

External links

  • Mars Hill University website
  • Mars Hill University athletics website
  • Mars Hill College Yearbooks: 1917-2011

Coordinates: 35°49′34″N 82°33′03″W / 35.82603°N 82.55070°W / 35.82603; -82.55070

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