March 9, 2018
The Mars Hill University board of trustees introduced John Anthony “Tony” Floyd, J.D., on Friday, March 9, 2018, as the next president of Mars Hill University. Floyd will succeed Dan G. Lunsford, who retires at the end of the academic year. Floyd currently is executive vice president of Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, where he also serves as coordinator of the political science major and coordinator of the pre-law specialization. He will begin his position at Mars Hill on June 1.
Speaking to a packed house in Broyhill Chapel, Floyd told the assembled students, staff, faculty, and community members that his “heart was pounding” with excitement over the opportunities the university presidency presents. “I want to encourage us to dream and to stretch,” he said. “I’m going to push — I’m going to be here to nudge you forward, to ask you to stretch beyond what you think you can do, because that’s what I’m doing.”
Floyd acknowledged the university’s commitment to the liberal arts, to its Christian heritage, and to offering to students a scholarly faculty from which to learn. “I can’t wait to get here and work with you to turn out these young people, citizens of the world — citizens who can be responsible and be a solution to what our world face,” he said.
Floyd will be only the sixth president of Mars Hill University since 1897. He praised the university community’s commitment to upholding its traditions. “Traditions are powerful at Mars Hill,” he said. “One of the traditions you have is that you don’t do this very often, and I’d like for you to keep that tradition. This is only the sixth time in 121 years. I recognize the responsibility that comes with that.”
And he paid tribute to the strong work of his predecessor, promising to build on Lunsford’s 16 years at the helm: “I give you my pledge today that we’re going to honor what you’ve done here and we’re going to keep going.”
Lunsford promised to be of assistance in any way needed by the new president, but also promised to “stay out of his way,” saying he had “absolute confidence” in Floyd to be the next leader of the institution. “He can do the job,” Lunsford said, adding a self-deprecating follow-up, “If I could do it, there’s no question he can do it.”
Referencing remarks given by students at an event earlier in the day, in which they mentioned they’re 63 days away from graduation, Lunsford put his own timetable at 65 days, saying he’ll work through the university’s annual Lion Pride Day campus work day on the Monday after spring commencement and then take some well earned vacation time.
Floyd was joined by his wife, Terry, and daughters, Olivia and Sarah.
Floyd earned his bachelor of science degree in business management from the University of South Carolina, and his juris doctor from Campbell University. Following a 23-year career in private law practice, he joined Coker College in 2012 as vice president of administration and legal counsel, and was named executive vice president in 2015.
His duties include serving as legal counsel and chief financial officer. He is responsible for strategic planning, endowment management, compliance, campus dining, facilities and grounds, student success, student and residential life, campus safety, and human resources. Floyd describes his leadership style as “focused on shaping the college campus experience for multiple constituencies.”
The American Council on Education (ACE) named Floyd an ACE Fellow for 2014-15. The ACE Fellows Program provides an immersive leadership training experience to senior leaders to help prepare them for the challenges facing higher education.
Lunsford announced in January 2017 his plan to retire during the 2017-18 academic year, with the specific date dependent on the search for his successor. Lunsford became president on an interim basis in January 2002, following the resignation of the late Max Lennon. The board of trustees of what was then Mars Hill College made the position permanent in May 2003.
Lunsford’s tenure at Mars Hill University has been marked by growth in many areas, fitting the theme of his presidency: Preserving the Past, Assuring the Future. Under Lunsford the school transitioned from a college to a university in 2013; completed its first comprehensive capital campaign (and is in the final stages 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); established the Asheville Center for Adult and Graduate Studies in south Asheville; added a large portion of the campus to the National Register of Historic Places; strengthened and added academic programs (including an Honors Program, master’s degrees in elementary education and in management, and a nursing school); and increased funding for scholarships and other financial aid for students.