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Mars Hill University

Mars Hill University

Pro Christo Adolescentibusque

"For Christ and For Youth"
Established 1856
Type Private
President Dr. Dan G. Lunsford
Students 1,444
Location Mars Hill, NC, USA

Blue and Gold[1]

Athletics NCAA Division II
Nickname Template:If empty
Affiliations South Atlantic Conference, National Collegiate Cycling Association


Mars Hill College Historic District
Location Bet. Bailey and Cascade Sts. N and S, Mars Hill, North Carolina, United States
Area Script error: No such module "convert".
Built 1892
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, etc.
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 06000865[2]
Added to NRHP September 12, 2006

Mars Hill University is a private, coed, liberal arts university. The university is located in the small town of Mars Hill, North Carolina, United States, Script error: No such module "convert". due north of Asheville, western North Carolina's largest city and Script error: No such module "convert". south of Johnson City, Tennessee, northeast Tennessee's largest city. Mars Hill University is easily accessible from Asheville via Interstate 26, which runs about a mile (1.6 km) east of the university. From 1859 to 2013 it was called Mars Hill College; in August 2013 it officially changed its name to Mars Hill University.[3]


Mars Hill University was founded in 1856, and it is the oldest college or university in western North Carolina. 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. From 1966-1996 Dr. Fred Bentley served as the college's president. Dr. Bentley was, at the time of his appointment in 1966, the youngest college president in the United States. Dr. Dan Lunsford, a 1969 graduate of Mars Hill, is currently the university's president; he holds a doctorate in education, Ed.D, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Under Dr. Lunsford, Mars Hill University has constructed a new dormitory and science building, greatly upgraded its athletic facilities, tripled its endowment, seen an increase in student enrollment, and started a school in nursing and a graduate school in education. Mars Hill is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Mars Hill University today

The university's enrollment is typically around 1,000 traditional students, and more than 200 students in its nontraditional degree program. In its annual survey of "America's Best Colleges," Mars Hill is listed by U.S. News and World Report as a "first-tier" regional (Southern) liberal-arts college. 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.[1][2] The university offers six degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Education), and 33 majors. In May 2013 the university awarded its first M.Ed degrees.[3] The most popular majors are in the fields of education, natural sciences, and music; the university is known for its excellent departments in music and other fine arts. In 1932 Lamar Stringfield, a Mars Hill alumnus, formed the North Carolina Symphony, the first state-supported orchestra in the nation. The "Bailey Mountain Cloggers," the university's dance team, have won 21 national championships in clogging[4][5], and they have performed all over the United States and internationally in Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Austria, and Ireland [6]. 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 Script error: No such module "convert". campus; most of the dormitories are located atop two hills, named "men's hill" and "women's hill" respectively. 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 less than a mile (1.5 km) from campus and is a local landmark.

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 would allow the university to choose non-Baptists as trustees. The state convention also agreed to start transferring funds traditionally given directly to the university to a 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 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 blue and gold. In May 2011 the cycling team won the USA Cycling Collegiate Division II national championship; in 2012 they finished in second place. In May 2015 the Mars Hill cycling team finished the season ranked in first place nationally among Division II teams. The Mountain Lions football team tied for the South Atlantic Conference championship in November 2011 and competed in the Division II national football playoffs. In December 2011, running back Jonas Randolph won the prestigious Harlon Hill Trophy, which is given each year to the best player in Division II football. The men's cross country team have also been highly successful over the last decade; they have won 18 straight conference titles and have competed in the NCAA Division II meet 10 times in the last 11 years. 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.

Notable Alumni


  1. "Mars Hill University Identity Guidelines". 
  2. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 

External links

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