October 26, 2017
Mars Hill University honored Dan Lunsford as Alumnus of the Year for 2017 during Homecoming festivities on October 21, his last Homecoming as the university’s president. Lunsford was recognized at the afternoon football game and during the annual Alumni of the Year Banquet that evening.
A 1969 graduate of Mars Hill College, Lunsford earned his graduate degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participated in postdoctoral study at Vanderbilt University and the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Government. He began his career as a sixth grade teacher in Durham, N.C.; was a principal, director of instruction, associate superintendent, and assistant superintendent for Orange County Schools before serving that district as superintendent from 1983-1990; and was superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools from 1990-1998. He came to Mars Hill in 1998 as dean of the School of Education and Leadership, was named interim president in 2002–a position the institution’s board of trustees made permanent in 2003.
Under Lunsford the school transitioned from a college to a university; completed its first comprehensive capital campaign (and is in the midst of its second); saw the largest building boom in campus facilities since the 1970s (with the addition of three new residence halls and three new classroom and laboratory buildings, as well as the building and renovation of several athletic facilities); added a large portion of the campus to the National Register of Historic Places; strengthened and added academic programs (including an Honors Program, a master’s degree in elementary education, and a nursing program); and increased funding for scholarships and other financial aid for students.
Lunsford maintains strong involvement in community and professional organizations, including the South Atlantic Conference, Appalachian College Association, and NC Independent Colleges and Universities. He was recognized in the spring with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest honors. He and his wife, Beverly, are active in the life of the university and the town of Mars Hill.
Lunsford announced in January 2017 that he will retire as president of Mars Hill University in the spring of 2018. A search is underway to find his successor.