Mars Hill University (MHU), a four-year, coeducational, residential, liberal arts university located in Mars Hill, NC, seeks an innovative, visionary, strategic leader with a passion and enthusiasm for student-centered, quality, liberal arts education.


Mars Hill University, the oldest college or university in western North Carolina on its original site, was founded in 1856 as the French Broad Baptist Institute in Madison County, NC. Shortly thereafter, and inspired by Acts 17, the name was changed to Mars Hill College in honor of the famous site of learning and biblical significance where the Apostle Paul stood and made his historic address. The College was chartered by the State of North Carolina in 1859.

The divisiveness of the American Civil War had an especially devastating effect on families and schools in the mountains of North Carolina. However, the College persevered through several years of difficulty and challenges to emerge once again in 1890 into what is considered a renaissance period for the school.

Dr. Robert L. Moore became President of Mars Hill in 1897 and launched a period of stability and growth. By the end of Dr. Moore’s 41-year tenure, the College had gained an excellent reputation in the academic world and stood ready to begin a promising new era.

In 1938 Dr. Hoyt Blackwell was elected President and pledged to continue building on the progress of the prior administration. True to his promise, the campus was transformed over the next 28 years as new buildings were constructed, older structures were upgraded, and the beauty of the campus was magnified.  Dr. Blackwell also led the school in its successful transition in 1962 from junior to senior college status. Mars Hill had become one of the premiere two-year private colleges in the nation and was positioned to embrace the next challenge, attaining recognition as a four-year institution.

The Blackwell era was followed in 1966 when Dr. Fred Bentley assumed the presidency.  At that time Dr. Bentley was recognized as the youngest college president in the nation. This personable, energetic leader quickly and decisively began implementing a series of dramatic changes.  In little over a year he accomplished his first and foremost goal of gaining senior college accreditation for Mars Hill College by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  His 30-year tenure bore the mark of numerous accomplishments for the College and an organizational restructuring that encouraged greater involvement of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends of the College. Outreach programs were expanded and the school identified itself more closely with the Appalachian region.

Dr. Bentley retired in 1996 and was followed by Dr. Max Lennon, an alumnus of Mars Hill College (class of 1960) and former President of Clemson University. An experienced, incisive leader, Dr. Lennon developed a comprehensive strategic plan, formulated a new Mission Statement, and introduced many new administrative procedures.  Dr. Lennon’s arrival and confident approach created a fresh sense of excitement and enthusiasm that permeated the campus.  In 2002 Dr. Lennon resigned to head a program in technology and technology transfer to bring the communities of western North Carolina the advantages of high speed computing and internet access.

Dr. Dan G. Lunsford, an alumnus (class of 1969) and Dean of the School of Education at Mars Hill College, was named interim president in January 2002 and was elected to the presidency in May 2003. An innovative, visionary leader, he has continued Mars Hill’s strong focus on academic freedom. Pledging to leave the school stronger than when he began, Dr. Lunsford lost no time implementing an aggressive plan to establish financial stability, construct new facilities, renovate older buildings, grow the endowment, and strengthen and expand academic programs.  Early in Dr. Lunsford’s tenure the school launched and successfully achieved the goal of its first comprehensive capital campaign, thus providing financial resources to begin a robust building and campus improvement plan. Currently, the University is in the last year of the “Building Our University” second comprehensive capital campaign, already considered to be highly successful. Under the helm of Dr. Lunsford’s leadership, the school added Master’s degree programs in education, management and criminal justice, more than doubled the endowment, and transitioned in August 2013 from Mars Hill College to Mars Hill University. The ambitious building program envisioned and implemented during Dr. Lunsford’s presidency has transformed the campus and further enhanced its overall beauty. Two new buildings were dedicated in 2016 – Troy and Pauline Day Hall, home of the University’s business program, and Ferguson Health Sciences Center, home to the Judge-McRae School of Nursing.  Additional building projects include comprehensive renovation of the stadium and the baseball complex and the completion of several new residence halls (Laurel, Dogwood, and Bailey), as well as extensive renovation to some of the older facilities (Azalea Townhouse and Dickson-Palmer Unit A).  The total renovation of Huffman Residence Hall in 2015, a building originally constructed in 1947, achieved the goal of maintaining the lovely architectural style of the building while creating an entirely new interior that greatly enhanced the students’ residence life experiences. Honoring his promise to preserve the past while assuring the future, Dr. Lunsford successfully led efforts to have a large portion of the campus added to the National Register of Historic Places, making it the largest educational historic district in the state. The numerous notable accomplishments during the Lunsford era, and those that are forthcoming in the near future, have created an elevated sense of excitement and optimism as well as strong momentum poised and ready to take the University to the next level.  Mars Hill University is well positioned to help students achieve their dreams and goals for now and generations to come.

Dr. Lunsford has announced his intention to retire during the 2017-2018 academic year, leading to this search for the next leader of Mars Hill University.

Mission, Vision, and Core Values  
Mission: Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth through an education that is:

  • Grounded in a rigorous study of the Liberal Arts.
  • Connected with the world of work.
  • Committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.

Vision: Mars Hill University will be a preeminent private university, nationally recognized for transforming engaged learners into ethical citizens and successful leaders in an ever-changing world.

Core Values: Mars Hill University affirms and supports core values focusing on:

  • Liberal Arts Foundation
  • Free and Open Intellectual Inquiry for Employees and Students
  • Innovative Teaching and Experiential Learning
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Career Preparedness
  • Applied Christian Principles
  • Ethical Citizenship
  • Respect for Diversity
  • Culture of Service
  • Local and Global Engagement

Students, Faculty, and Programs
Students (all numbers are approximate):
Traditional student body – 1140, with almost 75% living on campus;
Additional students in the Adult and Graduate Studies program – 160;
Student to Faculty Ratio – 11:1;
Description of students – 56%, Female; 44%, Male; 34% are students of color; 75% come from North Carolina; 51% are first-generation college students; 36% participate in athletics*
*MHU sponsors 11 women’s and 11 men’s intercollegiate varsity sports and competes in NCAA Division II as a member of the South Atlantic Conference.

The faculty includes approximately 100 full-time teachers.  Approximately 70% hold a terminal degree.  The faculty members value highly their roles as teachers and advisers.  MHU prides itself on the strong connections cultivated between faculty and students.

MHU offers six undergraduate degrees: BA, BM, BFA, BS, BSN, and BSW; and three graduate degrees: Master of Education (Elementary Education), Master of Management, and Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (pending SACSCOC approval). The University offers 35 majors and 33 minors through the Division of Fine Arts, the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Division of Mathematics and Social Sciences, the Division of Professional Programs, the School of Nursing, and Adult and Graduate Studies.

MHU’s Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) programs have been serving non-traditional students in western North Carolina since the 1970s.  Students benefit from small classes, dedicated faculty, and evening schedules that meet the needs of working adults.  AGS offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as teacher licensure tracks. The addition of master degree programs in education, management, and criminal justice demonstrates the University’s growing commitment to graduate education relevant to the workforce needs of western North Carolina.  In 2013 Mars Hill opened an off-site location in South Asheville, expanding the University’s footprint and service area.  AGS programming currently operates out of three locations:  the main Mars Hill campus, the South Asheville Center for Adult and Graduate Studies and an off-site location in Burnsville, North Carolina.  Looking to the future, AGS is exploring creative options to remain a vibrant player in an increasingly competitive market.  In fall 2017, AGS is piloting synchronous learning and linking its three instructional sites with an innovative technology package.  AGS is also exploring the viability of adding online-only degree programs to be more responsive to the needs of 21st century adult learners.  Building strategically across institutional lines, AGS is spearheading a western North Carolina Higher Education consortium to help further elevate Mars Hill’s profile and to model collaborative research, teaching and service.

Mars Hill University is located in one of the most beautiful, scenic and healthful regions of the Eastern United States, the mountains of Western North Carolina. The town, which derives its name from the University, has a population of about 2,200. It is approximately 20 minutes north of Asheville, NC, and approximately 45 minutes southwest of Johnson City, TN. The campus is also 10 miles east of Marshall, the county seat of Madison County.

Asheville, which is known for its quality arts, crafts, and music offerings, is the largest city in the western third of NC, with a population of approximately 65,000. The area enjoys thriving visitor and outdoor industries and has become a leading entrepreneurial and economic center.  Home to the National Climatic Data Center, the nationally awarded Mission Health Center and a nationally recognized entrepreneurial incubator, Asheville has been named one of the “Top 10 Best Places to Live in the USA” by Money magazine.  The area combines small-town charm with an extraordinary urban sensibility.

From the spectacular 178-acre MHU campus, sitting at an elevation of 2,330 feet, a majestic panorama of lofty peaks may be viewed, including the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains, Mount Mitchell. An abundance of scenic attractions such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Craggy Gardens, Linville Falls, Grandfather Mountain, Biltmore House and Gardens, Big Bald Mountain, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are within easy driving distance.

Mars Hill is a virtual paradise for those who love the invigorating altitude and inspirational beauty of the mountains. The proximity of ski slopes, hiking paths, cycling trails, waterfalls, fishing streams, and whitewater rafting sites make the location of Mars Hill University an ideal outdoor recreation area. The Sam’s Gap Access Point on the renowned Appalachian Trail is only 11 miles from the campus.


The President of Mars Hill University is appointed by, and reports directly to, the Board of Trustees.  Positions reporting to the President (the President’s Leadership Team) include:

Executive Vice President (Chief Academic Officer); Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Vice President for Finance & Facilities Management; Associate Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students; Assistant Vice President for Human Resources & Strategic Initiatives; Executive Director for Auxiliary Services & Planning; University Chaplain; Senior Director of Marketing and Communications; and the Director of Athletics. Additional positions currently reporting to the President include the Director of Admissions and the Director of Financial Aid. Total employees under the leadership of the President include 9 staff and 3 administrators with faculty appointments.

In addition, the President develops and maintains productive relationships with the Foundation Board, the National Alumni Board, and the Board of Advisors.


The President serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the University with responsibility for ensuring the success of the institution’s mission, enrollment management, academic integrity, fiscal stability and viability, fundraising efforts, personnel development, and physical plant management. In doing so, the President works closely with the Board of Trustees in developing, communicating, and executing a strategy consistent with the overall mission and values of MHU as an institution dedicated to challenging and enabling students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth through education grounded in the Liberal Arts, connected with the world of work, and committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.

Specific responsibilities for this position include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Visioning, Goal-Setting, Strategic Planning: Inspire, engage, and promote unity among all stakeholders and constituencies; promote MHU’s identity, mission, and vision; provide leadership in fulfilling the strategic plan; suggest, develop, and implement strategies and/or directives as approved or determined by the Board of Trustees.
  • University Leadership: Provide exceptional leadership, including recruiting, retaining, managing, motivating, and evaluating a professional staff, which in turn provides leadership through all functional disciplines associated with the University.
  • Academic Leadership: Provide leadership, along with the Executive Vice President (Chief Academic Officer), in recruiting, retaining, and motivating a high-quality faculty. Ensure academic freedom and assist in ongoing evaluation of existing and prospective majors and degrees; promote academic excellence.
  • Leadership Development: Encourage and support faculty and staff training, research, writing, and advanced learning; empower individuals to work effectively and independently with accountability.
  • Enrollment Management: Champion liberal arts education; promote initiatives to attract qualified students, increase retention, and support completion of degree programs by students.
  • Fundraising: Provide leadership, and actively participate, in fundraising activities; strengthen relations with alumni, corporations, and other donors.
  • Financial Management and Operational Acumen: Provide strategic and operational leadership and oversight in budgeting and other areas of financial management and administration (human resources, facilities, student needs, etc.) to maximize the effective and efficient use of resources.
  • Relationships and Communications with Various Stakeholders: Maintain regular and consistent contact with alumni, faculty, staff, and the student body to facilitate open communication; listen to ideas and concerns; collaborate in development of opportunities and solutions; support efforts to ensure diversity on campus.
  • Engagement with Students and Support for Campus Activities: Promote an environment that ensures the safety of students; understand the importance of and show support for athletics, student activities and organizations; support activities consistent with character development and the MHU service leadership tradition.
  • Community and Civic Relations: Seek appropriate opportunities to represent, promote, and market MHU in the community, the region, and nationally (if desired by the Board), via the media, public relations activities, community activities, etc.; demonstrate a commitment to the region and an appreciation of the cultural heritage of the region; maintain a positive relationship between campus and the community; recognize the impact of the campus on the resources of the town and county.
  • Higher Education Trends and Legal Issues: Be informed and share information with appropriate staff and faculty to ensure all are aware of regulatory requirements and the changing environment in higher education; serve as the primary advocate with local, state, and federal government officials and representatives regarding transactions, legislation, and appropriations affecting the University as well as matters pertaining to higher education.
  • Public Face of the University:  Embraces the role of representing the University to all alumni, media, the academic community, and other institutions of higher education, including the North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
  • Values Professional Development:  Seeks opportunities and encourages others to take advantage of opportunities to further enhance professional knowledge, skills, effectiveness and competence.


Preferred qualifications include the following:

  • Espouses principles based on strong Christian faith: integrity, honesty, sincerity and compassion.
  • Proven record of effective and successful leadership and managerial skills; good delegator when/where appropriate.
  • A visionary, strategic thinker; able to think innovatively and explore new ideas and strategies while considering the needs of multiple constituencies and respecting the history and tradition of the institution.
  • Passionate about the importance of higher education, particularly the liberal arts; has evidence of proven leadership skills required to lead an institution of higher education; committed to academic freedom. Appreciates the history and traditions of MHU and the culture of the region; demonstrates an understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the mission of MHU and the service leadership tradition.
  • Committed to successful implementation of the MHU Strategic Plan and leading other initiatives, including supporting diversity, to enhance the experiences of students, faculty, and staff.
  • Communicates (oral and written) well with all constituencies; experienced public speaker; listens well and appreciates suggestions and ideas of others; open-minded.
  • Exceptional people skills and interpersonal abilities; engaging; accessible; energetic and enthusiastic; able to build and maintain close relationships and engender trust; willing and eager to use these attributes for financial development.
  • Enthusiasm for fundraising; preference for proven experience in fundraising.
  • Knowledgeable about strategies for effective enrollment management that ensure MHU’s programs and services will attract students, strengthen retention of students, and raise graduation rates.
  • Good business management skills; financial acumen; preference for experience with managing, or oversight of, some or all of the following: financial planning and budgeting, human resources, technology, and physical plant development and maintenance.
  • Embraces a positive attitude; thinks creatively and analytically; collaborates with others to develop solutions and plans; inclusive and genuine in information gathering but decisive; able and willing to make difficult decisions.
  • Committed to the development of staff and faculty; recognizes the importance of their contributions to the success of the institution.
  • Committed to excellence in individual endeavors and MHU’s achievements in academic areas as well as athletics.
  • Desires to be involved in campus activities and participate in the activities of the religious community, the town, county and region.
  • Appropriate academic credentials.
  • Maintains a close and effective working relationship with the Board of Trustees.


Compensation package will be competitive.

Mars Hill University is an equal opportunity employer.

For additional information contact