March 28, 2018
Mars Hill University dedicated new tennis court wind screens to Virginia Hart, the longtime coach and professor who founded the university’s women’s varsity athletics program, and for whom the Hart Tennis Center is named. About 50 people — including several alumni who were coached and taught by Hart — attended a ceremony on Saturday, March 24, 2018, to formalize this latest recognition of Hart’s contributions to the university over the past 73 years.
Hart graduated in 1943 from Mars Hill College, which then was a two-year school, and returned to join the faculty in 1945 after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Winthrop College. She began teaching at Mars Hill 20 days after graduation. In the course of 40 years on the faculty, she continued her formal education, receiving her M.A. in physical education from George Peabody College in 1950 and her Ed.D. from UNC Greensboro in 1976. She played many roles in her Mars Hill teaching career, which ended upon her retirement in 1985: from coach of the men’s tennis team, to director of May Day programs, to service on the planning committee for Chambers Gymnasium, to chair of the faculty development committee, to sponsor of the majorettes and cheerleaders. She founded the women’s varsity athletic programs at Mars Hill, coaching basketball, volleyball, and tennis. She was presented the first Excellence in Teaching Award in 1970 and is a charter member of the Mars Hill University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999 she returned to work at the campus in the dining hall, where new generations of Mars Hill students came to know her as “Miss Virginia, the omelet lady.” Following some health issues, she retired a second time, in the spring of 2017.
Speakers at Saturday’s event included former students Cynthia Hensley of the class of 1984, Que Tucker of the class of 1974, Rodney Johnson of the class of 1972, and Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford, of the class of 1969. Current MHU tennis coach Bill Kreger and members of the tennis team were on hand to thank Hart for her contributions and to attest to the benefits the wind screens provide for athletes playing at the Hart Tennis Center.