Notable Alumni

Notable Alumni at Mars Hill University

Mars Hill has been preparing leaders who make a difference in their professions, their communities and the world since 1856. Here are some of Mars Hill’s more notable alumni (you’ll find others listed within the departmental pages throughout the MHU website):


Hope, C.C. ’41 – Started a 38-year banking career in 1947 as a result of helping a banker restart his stalled car, served as vice-chairman of First Union Bank, board member of the FDIC, president of the American Banking Association.

Kelly, Mike ’82 – Owner of Right Path Enterprises and Kelly Financial Planning. Enjoyed a successful career in the corporate world with Macy’s and Michelin in operations, human resources, finance, marketing, and sales. 2023 inductee into the SAC Hall of Fame.

May, Joyce ’84Β – Worked in security for the Clinton White House, founded a private telecommunications and security firm that contracts primarily with the U.S. State Department.

Miller, Matt ’86 – Civilian and military veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Served as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves. Former White House Advisor to the Veterans Administration. Currently chief of staff for a member of Congress.

Pizzi, Becca ’02Β – first American woman to complete seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Potts, Erwin ’52Β – Served as President and CEO of the McClatchy Company, the second largest newspaper company in the U.S., on the national boards of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau and the Newspaper Association of America.

Price, David ’59 – U.S Congressman from 1987–1995 and 1997–2023, recognized leader in foreign policy, ranking Democrat on the Democracy Assistance Commission, which he initiated to support new democracies around the world.

Ramsey, Liston ’39Β – Longest-serving member of the NC House of Representatives, the only member to serve four terms as Speaker of the House, brought a fair share of political clout and state dollars to the mountains.

Smith, Bria ’10 – Known professionally as Bria Janelle. In-arena host and emcee for the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Dream; host/emcee/announcer for various sporting events including high school basketball, WNBA All-Star Weekend, WWE, and HBCU Esports League.Β  CEO/founder of the Bria Janelle Foundation, with a mission of “Building a stronger community through youth empowerment, and community development.”

Storey, Tim ’88 – Executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Specialist in the areas of elections, redistricting, legislative organization and leadership. He has consulted with, and conducted training for, parliaments around the world.

Thornburg, Lacey ’50 – Former Attorney General of North Carolina, appointed by President Bill Clinton to be United States District Court Judge, based in Asheville.

Charles Trammell ’59 – Founder and president of Retirement Companies of America

Brent Townsend ’02 – Area director for Chick-fil-A corporate office.


Coble, Charles ’61 – Leading expert on education reform, served as Vice President of the Education Commission of the States, Dean of the School of Education at East Carolina University, Vice President for University-School Programs at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Echols, Doug ’67 – Served 19 years as the first commissioner of the South Atlantic Conference. Mayor of Rock Hill, South Carolina, from 1998-2018. Member of the MHU and SAC Halls of Fame.

Good, Denzelle ’14 – Professional football player with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.

Hyatt, Margaret ’74 – Principal of Avery’s Creek Elementary School in Buncombe County, named the 2005 Wachovia Principal of the Year for North Carolina.

Lunsford, Dan ’69 – President Emeritus of Mars Hill University. Prior to joining the faculty of Mars Hill as dean of the School of Education and Leadership in 1998 and being named president in 2003, he served eight years as superintendent of Henderson County (North Carolina) schools. He began his career as a 6th 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.

Miles, Jeff ’01 – Head of School at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia. Member of the MHU athlectics Hall of Fame.

Peacock, Ken ’70 – Retired chancellor of Appalachian State University. Under his leadership Appalachian became known for its undergraduate research, internationalized curriculum, service-learning and sustainability, both in academic programs and campus practices.

Propst, H. Dean ’54 – Former chancellor of the University System of Georgia. During his tenure, he focused heavily on strengthening the schools in the system. His motto: “Character Above All.”

Tucker, Que ’74 – Commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, former assistant coach to Kay Yow at NC State.

Wagner, Lavonda ’86 – Former head women’s basketball coach at Oregon State University, former assistant coach at Duke, member of MHC Hall of Fame.

Young, Fred ’54 – President Emeritus, Elon University. More than doubled the enrollment at Elon and increased the campus from 145 acres to 500 acres.


Abood, Cheryl ’77 – Hollywood producer, including films such as “Return to Neverland” and “The Tigger Movie.”

Burroughs, Bob ’57 – Prolific hymn-writer, Director of Church Music Department, Florida Baptist Convention.

Cabaniss,Β  Mark ’81 – President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, a Nashville-based worldwide music publisher creating printed and digital music, recordings, and videos. He is a multiple recipient of ASCAP’s Popular Music Award, the NAMM Believe in Music Award and is a Dove Award and Angel Award-winning producer. Mark also serves as an adjunct instructor of music business at Belmont University.

Campbell, Archie ’35 – Actor, musician, and comedian, perhaps best known for starring on the TV series “Hee Haw.” World War II Navy veteran. Former president of the Mars Hill College Alumni Board and 1975 recipient of the Alumni of the Year award.

Carroll, Katie S. ’69 – Director of television dramas such as Knots Landing, manager of the Directors Guild Producer Training Program.

Combs, Freddie ’93 – Evangelist and musician. Appeared on the reality TV series “The X Factor,” “Heavily Ever After,” and “Ton of Love.”

Dawkins, Johnnny ’74 – Screenwriter, winner of an Emmy (for “The Wave”), Gabriel, Image, Peabody,and Humanitas Awards, Story Editor with Gene Roddenberry for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Gerald, Alfreda ’85 – Recording artist and headlining entertainer who has performed with Cher, Celine Dion, Sir Elton John, Whitney Houston, Yanni, Warren Haynes, and many others.

Holland, Dwight ’52 – Curator of Design and planner of the NC Zoological Park, a primary mover to bring art to the public schools.

Locklair, Dan ’72 – World-renowned composer, with works including “Since Dawn,” set to Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning,” named Composer of the Year by the American Guild of Organists in their centennial year.

Stringfield, Lamar ’15 – In addition to being the founder and first director of the NC Symphony, Stringfield was a composer of symphonic works based on American folklore, a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship winner, conductor, flutist, teacher, and promoter of local and regional musical groups, chiefly in North Carolina.


Bryan, G. McLeod ’39 – Human rights advocate, author of 13 books and dozens of articles in national magazines, philosopher, professor, prophet, helped integrate both Mercer and Wake Forest Universities.

Burroughs, Esther ’57 – Founder of “Treasures of the Heart Ministries”, sharing the gospel across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa, national consultant on evangelism for women.

Claypool, John ’50 – One of the most revered pastor/ theologians of the 20th century, the only Baptist in the 20th century to deliver the prestigious Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale.

Harrelson, Walter ’42 – Hebrew Bible scholar and translator, theological educator, serving as President of Chicago, and Vanderbilt Divinity Schools and helping found the Wake Forest Divinity School.

Roberts, Gene ’52 – Covered the Civil Rights Movement and later became the managing editor for the New York Times, described by Newsweek magazine as “perhaps the finest newspaper man in America,” received the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2007 for his book The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a NationΒ (co-authored with Hank Klibanoff).

Sherer, Ann ’62 – Bishop, United Methodist Church, Columbia, Missouri; chairperson, “Council of Bishops Initiative on Children and Poverty” Emory Medal Recipient.


Cavenaugh, Edward ’49 – Retired Deputy Director of Lab Programs, Centers for Disease Control.

Helvey, Bill ’50 – Physician, pioneer in aerospace medicine, expertise in regenerative life support systems in space travel.

Hough, Holly ’84 – Director, Office of Physician-Scientist Development at Duke University School of Medicine.Β  Former administrative director for the Cancer Prevention and Control Network, writing a book on integrating alternative medicine with traditional Western medicine.

Houston, Mike ’94 – Head football coach, East Carolina University. Winner of FCS National Championship as coach of James Madison University. Following a successful high school coaching career he moved to the collegiate ranks, taking his first head coaching position at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Member of MHU athletics Hall of Fame.

Morgan, Monroe ’58 – Founded the first Masters program in Environmental Health in the nation, described by the World Health Organization as the best in the world, attracting over 2,000 students from 56 countries.

Smith, Karen ’81 – Interventional cardiologist.