Virginia Hart, Iconic Mars Hill Educator Passes Away at 101 years old

Virginia Hart, the longtime coach and professor who founded the Mars Hill University women’s varsity athletics program, passed away on June 1, 2024.

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 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.

In 2018, Hart received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. The award, conferred by the Governor of North Carolina, is one of the most prestigious in the state and is awarded for “exemplary service to the State of North Carolina.” Hart was presented the award during the North Carolina Association of Student Councils Leadership Workshop. Hart helped bring the workshop to Mars Hill in 1962, and it still is held on the campus each summer.

In 2023, the Winthrop University Alumni Association honored Hart with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an alumna.

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