Mars Hill University Celebrates $53 Million Fundraising Campaign

Student scholarships, a nursing school, and several new buildings are highlights of a major fundraising campaign undertaken by Mars Hill University. The Building Our University campaign launched in 2013 and had a goal of $42 million. When university official unveiled the final total during a celebratory event on Friday, September 21, 2018, it eclipsed the goal by more than $11 million, coming in at $53,436,992.

“This campaign has created, and will continue to create, a value added opportunity for all,” said President Emeritus Dan Lunsford, who led Mars Hill University during the five years of the campaign. “We do not yet know the full impact of this campaign, but we know that faculty, staff, and students will achieve great things at Mars Hill. But they will achieve even more because of the donors who believed in this place. But really, what they believed in was the purpose, the vision, and the people.”

The most visible projects funded by the campaign are buildings, new and renovated. Two of those buildings opened for the fall semester of 2016: Day Hall, which includes classrooms, the university bookstore, a cafe, a black box theatre, and the box office for adjacent Owen Theatre; and Ferguson Health Sciences Center, which houses the Judge-McRae School of Nursing, itself a product of the campaign. Huffman Residence Hall, built in the 1950s, was fully renovated as part of the Building Our University campaign. Currently under construction, with opening targeted for February 2019, is the Jo Ellen Ammons Athletic Field House. It will include locker rooms, athletic training facilities, and coaches’ offices, and will serve as a new entry to the athletic stadium where the Lions’ football, lacrosse, and soccer teams play and practice.

Less visible, but incredibly important for students, are campaign priorities of student scholarships and faculty development funds. Campaign contributions have resulted in endowment of several dozen new scholarships, funds which will make it easier for more students to afford private higher education. The increased faculty development resources will help ensure that professors have ongoing opportunities for study and research, keeping the Mars Hill academic experience relevant and contemporary for students.

President Tony Floyd, who took the helm in June following Lunsford’s retirement, pledged to build on the work of his predecessor and the donors who made this campaign so successful. “The torch is being passed from a campaign well done, but it’s being passed to us with a responsibility to build on it and keep the momentum going and shatter records in the future,” he said. “When you really boil it all down, it’s not about the buildings, it’s not about the money. It’s about our Lions. It’s about sending our Lions–exporting them to the world.  The world needs Mars Hill graduates, coaches, theatre directors, fathers and mothers, and grandparents. The world needs Mars Hill.”

Friday’s celebration included performances by music department faculty and the university marching band, and recognition of the campaign steering committee. Committee members were Brenda Nash (chair) of Asheville, N.C.; Mark Cabaniss of Nashville, Tenn.; Troy Day of Kannapolis, N.C.; Bruce DeWeese of Fairview, N.C.; Carolyn Ferguson of Candler,  N.C.; Dixon Free of Lincolnton, N.C.; Wayne Higgins of Weaverville, N.C.; A.C. Honeycutt of Mars Hill, N.C.; Linda Judge-McRae of Knoxville, Tenn.; Mike Kelly of Mason, Ohio; Ilda Littell of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Cheryl and Chris Pappas of Charlotte, N.C.; and Charles Trammell of Memphis, Tenn.