Mars Hill – A rainy day did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm as John Anthony “Tony” Floyd, J.D., was inaugurated as Mars Hill University’s 22nd president on Friday, November 9, 2018. In his address to the assembled audience, Floyd laid out his vision for the institution’s future—a vision that puts its focus squarely on its students, whom Floyd calls “his Lions.”
As he began his remarks following the formality of the presidential installation by the chair of the board of trustees and the provost, Floyd addressed the theme of his inauguration: “Scaling New Heights.”
“I dream that I will be part of a university that will not be complacent and will try to scale new heights,” Floyd said. “I dream about an institution that won’t just check off boxes and hand students diplomas and send them on out. I dream of an institution that will live its mission; will do what it says it’s going to do. And that is to prepare our students through a rigorous study of the liberal arts; o be a place where they can find personal, spiritual, and academic growth; and a place where we will connect them to the world of work. I dream about a place that’s going to live that.”
Floyd used the “dream” terminology because he says he doesn’t consider himself to be a visionary, but rather someone who dreams of what Mars Hill can do and become, under his leadership. “This world needs Mars Hill,” he said.
“I dream of a university that sends writers and poets and actors and actresses and singers and mathematicians, nurses, business men and women, who are ready for the real world and who are ready to serve their community. I dream of a university that, when a freshman comes here, on their first day on this campus, we’re going to talk to them about their life’s work; about how they will use their gifts in life, and to think about how they will make a difference in our world that really needs them.”
And Floyd spoke directly to “his Lions”: “We believe in you. And no matter what comes our way, we in this room—we who work here, who go here, who graduated from here, who contribute here—we are going to sing out. We’re going to sing with all our might. We’re going to fight for you. We’re going to seek to inspire you. And we’re going to send you from this place, educated and ready for the world.”
The inauguration ceremony featured direct connections to both the university’s and President Floyd’s pasts. The processional music performed by university organist Cathy Adkins was composed by Dan Locklair, a 1972 Mars Hill graduate. The university choir performed a revised and updated version of the song “A Festive Song,” written and composed by former organist and music professor Donna Robertson 20 years ago, and revised and updated for Friday’s presidential inauguration.
President Floyd’s daughters, Olivia and Sarah, presented a reading and a musical performance, respectively. President Robert Wyatt of Coker College, Floyd’s previous institution, gave special remarks. Representatives of the Mars Hill university students, faculty, staff, and trustees brought greetings. And representatives of more than two dozen colleges, universities, and associations processed in full regalia to support the new president.
Floyd is only the sixth president of Mars Hill University since 1897. His immediate predecessor, Dan Lunsford, was present for the inauguration, as were the past three First Ladies of the institution. Beverly Lunsford, Ruth Lennon (widow of President Max Lennon), and Doris Bentley (widow of President Fred Bentley), represented institutional history and continuity, and supported new First Lady Terry Floyd.
Tony 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. While at Coker, he also served as coordinator of the political science major and coordinator of the pre-law specialization.
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. He began his tenure at Mars Hill University on June 1, 2018.
About Mars Hill University: Mars Hill University is a premier private, liberal arts institution offering over 30 baccalaureate degrees, as well as master’s degrees in criminal justice, elementary education, and management. Founded in 1856 by Baptist families of the region, the campus is located just 20 minutes north of Asheville in the mountains of western North Carolina. The university’s Asheville Center for Adult and Graduate Studies is located on Airport Road in Arden.