Mars Hill College

I wrote the case statement for Allen MAC client Mars Hill College’s Values & Vision Campaign.

Campaign Case Statement

Preserving the Past, Assuring the Future

Mars Hill College Values & Vision campaign logo

With roots deeply planted in Christian faith, Mars Hill College offers a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum that serves its graduates extraordinarily well in post-graduate study, on the job and in life. As the 150th anniversary of its founding approaches, the college is celebrating its illustrious past and making ambitious plans for the future. Under the self-assured, reassuring leadership of president and alumnus, Dan G. Lunsford, new energy and enthusiasm are taking hold and flourishing throughout the Mars Hill campus. People are looking forward to the future of the college with renewed hope and a strengthened sense of purpose. Several significant opportunities for dramatic advancement have been identified, and plans are being made to achieve them.

While existing campus buildings have served the college well for decades—a few for nearly a century or more, the spaces they provide are no longer adequate to support the academic program. Student housing is severely limited, and campus athletic facilities are seriously lacking. Endowment for scholarships and faculty development needs to be strengthened, and additional ongoing support of special projects and routine operating expenses must be assured.

In September 2004, Mars Hill College trustees unanimously approved a $38 million capital campaign to address these urgent needs. The five-year Values & Vision Campaign will enable the college to move forward competently and confidently toward its brightest possible future. As a valued member of the Mars Hill family, you are encouraged to regard the campaign as your opportunity to help assure the future of the college. You are encouraged to consider a level of commitment commensurate with your regard for Mars Hill College and your belief in its potential value and relevance as a Christian liberal arts institution for the 21st Century.

Preserving the Past, Assuring the Future

Western North Carolina’s oldest educational institution still on its original site, Mars Hill College was founded in 1856 by pioneer families who recognized the value of a Christian-grounded education for their sons and daughters. In the original charter, they described their new school as “rooted in the Christian faith,” a fundamental value the college steadfastly preserves and honors to this day, as expressed in the Mars Hill College mission statement:

Mars Hill College, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual and personal growth that is grounded in a rigorous study of 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.

The Mars Hill College of today offers students an exceptionally rich, open environment in which to learn and grow. “We believe in education that involves both head and heart,” explains Stan Dotson, dean of Mars Hill’s LifeWorks ® Learning Partnership. “We don’t all agree on social issues, theological positions or political persuasions, but that’s part of our strength, because it’s through respectful dialogue around these disagreements that we find our minds sharpened and our faith deepened.”

With the approach of the college’s sesquicentennial year in 2006, the Mars Hill campus community is naturally focusing considerable attention on the school’s first 150 years and, in the process, renewing efforts to celebrate and preserve the best aspects of the school’s proud and honorable past. Historic strengths, such as high standards of excellence, academic freedom and openness, nurturing student-faculty relationships, and commitment to service are foundational values the college is wholeheartedly committed to preserving. At the same time, Mars Hill College understands its defining connection to place and is a dedicated interpreter and custodian of Appalachian culture and traditions.

In assuring the future of Mars Hill College, a specially-appointed committee representing a full cross-section of the college community is now preparing a comprehensive strategic plan. Charged with developing strategies to transform Mars Hill College into a primary choice for students who want to attend a small, church-related liberal arts college, the committee is addressing virtually every aspect and issue relevant to the immediate and longer-term future of the institution.

As detailed strategies are being developed, President Lunsford and the planning committee have outlined broad goals for student recruitment and retention, senior faculty succession, ongoing faculty and staff development and improvements to operating efficiencies. Already, the college is progressing toward its enrollment objectives for both traditional and continuing education students, with steady growth in new student and total enrollment for the past three years. With the addition of master’s degree programs in education and business administration, enrollment growth will be further accelerated.

Academically, Mars Hill College will continue to build on its considerable strength and reputation in the liberal arts—particularly, its highly regarded programs in education, music and business administration. At the same time, the college will further extend its services through additional online classes and new professional licensure programs.

As the final strategic plan document will surely reflect, people are genuinely excited and justifiably optimistic about the future of Mars Hill College. Critical to assuring that future, however, is the urgent need to address deficiencies in academic facilities, student housing and campus athletic facilities and to strengthen endowment and ongoing support.

The Need for Better Science and Mathematics Facilities

Wall Science Building has served Mars Hill College well since it was built in 1940, but laboratory facilities considered state-of-the-art more than 60 years ago are inadequate today. While the building offers valuable, convenient space on campus, Wall is no longer a viable location for science and mathematics laboratories. The most practical solution is relocate all laboratories to a new facility and to renovate the much-needed space in Wall for other purposes, such as general-use classrooms and offices. At the same time, given the building’s age, plumbing and wiring need to be replaced and upgraded, and a new, energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system needs to be installed.

The Need to Renovate Marshbanks Hall

Dedicated in 1910 as Moore Hall and renamed in 1979 to honor the Marshbanks family, Marshbanks Hall has served the college well for decades, primarily as an administrative center. Originally, the offices of the president and deans were upstairs, and business and registrar’s offices shared the main floor with the library. The bell in the copper-topped belfry tolled class periods and has figured into numerous, near-mythical pranks over the years.

With its entrance-bay frontispiece, brick quoins, bracketed eaves, arch-headed multi-pane windows and cupola, the three-story building’s distinctive architectural style makes it a cherished campus landmark. The interior, including the original double staircase and wainscoting, remains intact, and the roof is in good repair. The rest of the building requires numerous major repairs and modifications to restore its beauty and function and to meet current building codes.

The foundation needs strengthening, and the original wooden windows need to be replaced. The exterior brick needs repair and spot tuck pointing, and the wooden trim needs to be repaired. The existing handicapped-access ramp needs to be replaced, and now in its 94th year of service, Marshbanks also needs new plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

The Need for More General-Purpose Classroom Space

Along with the shortage of properly-equipped science and mathematics teaching spaces, Mars Hill College also needs more general-purpose classrooms as well as a 100-seat auditorium. Renovated spaces in Wall will offer some additional classrooms, but as enrollment continues to grow, more classroom space will be needed.

The Need for New Student Housing

With the beginning of the Fall 2004 semester, Mars Hill College ran out of dormitory space for students, three-quarters of whom live on campus. While the college can make do with existing dorm space during the next 18 months, enrollment growth projections indicate within two years, the lack of adequate on-campus housing would require the college to turn students away.

Student housing is also a critically important factor in recruiting and retaining students. With its newest dormitories built in the early- to mid-1970s, Mars Hill College is at a competitive disadvantage, relative to schools offering newer, better-quality housing.

The Need for New Athletic Facilities

While the student athletes of Mars Hill College regularly distinguish themselves in South Atlantic Conference competitions, in an intercollegiate comparison of athletic facilities, Mars Hill College would rank last, now that Newberry College is building new facilities.

Four sports teams, including football, lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer, share Meares Stadium field where bad weather and drainage problems have often made the surface unplayable. While drainage lines have been recently added, Meares remains in poor condition from chronic overuse and is subject to frequent scheduling conflicts among the teams.

The baseball field playing surface is in such poor condition that athletes are in danger of injury. Until drainage systems are repaired, standing water will continue as an ongoing problem in the below-ground-level dugouts.

Mars Hill College does not have a track or a cross-country course. The track and field team practices at North Buncombe High School.

The Need for More Scholarships

Through the Admissions Office, Mars Hill College offers both need-based and merit-based awards and scholarships. Students applying for Mars Hill honors scholarships must meet minimum grade point and admissions test score requirements. Once they are on campus, honors scholars are expected to excel academically, to demonstrate responsible citizenship through service learning and to assume leadership roles in the classrooms, on the playing fields, in student organizations and throughout the greater Mars Hill community.

Since 1991, Mars Hill has shared a partnership with the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation which has, so far, sponsored more than 300 Bonner Scholars, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Bonner Scholars commit to contribute at least 140 hours of community service each semester and 280 hours of service during the summer. They also participate in a program of intensive leadership development.

Based on the success of the program so far, the Bonner Foundation has offered to contribute $4.5 million to establish a permanent endowment to fund the scholarships, provided Mars Hill is able to match the gift with $2 million in endowment principal. In addition to matching the Bonner Foundation gift, Mars Hill College wishes to strengthen its endowment for other student scholarships by an additional $1 million.

The Need for More Faculty Development Opportunities

In today’s fast-changing world, Mars Hill College faculty members are challenged to keep pace in their disciplines. Teachers’ campus mailboxes overflow every day with notices of continuing education courses, workshops and retreats they would benefit from attending. Many faculty members have ideas for research projects and other scholarly work they would like to pursue, given the opportunity. All would welcome better, more abundant access to scholarly journals and current books in their fields.

Ongoing and Special Needs

Throughout its history as a small, privately-funded institution, Mars Hill College has often struggled to meet operating expenses. As a result of prudent fiscal management by the present administration, the budget is currently balanced and essential expenses are being met, in part, using contributions to the Annual Fund. With a strengthened Annual Fund, Mars Hill College could afford more of the many “extras” that are, in fact, vitally important to any educational institution.

Through its theater arts program, Mars Hill College offers a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and a bachelor’s of fine arts in musical theater. In addition to preparing theater arts majors for careers in educational and professional theater, the program offers non-majors opportunities to participate in productions. Its scheduled performances attract audiences from across campus and the surrounding community.

For many years, a top priority at Mars Hill has been to renovate Memorial Building. In fall 2004, the college received a $100,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation which, when combined with other available funds, allowed additional progress on the building. Work is now underway to replace the 40-year-old boiler and 87 casement windows, and to upgrade ground floor restrooms. Much work remains to be done, however.

The Values & Vision Campaign

To secure the funds required to meet the needs for academic facilities, student housing, athletic facilities, endowment and ongoing support, the trustees of Mars Hill College in May 2004 approved an ambitious five-year capital campaign. The Values & Vision Campaign represents Mars Hill College’s opportunity to preserve all the best of its past while assuring its future as an innovative and resourceful leader in Christian higher education.

In exploring the feasibility of the campaign, trustees were heartened to discover the depth and breadth of positive feelings for Mars Hill College among its key constituents. Clearly, those who know and love the college recognize its vast potential and stand ready to support the campaign with enthusiasm and generosity. Based on the clearly identified needs and the thoughtful assessments and insights revealed in the feasibility study report, trustees set the following priorities for the campaign:

Values & Vision Campaign Summary

  • Renovations and new construction for science and math programs
  • Marshbanks Hall renovations
  • New upper quad classroom building
  • New student housing
  • New and improved athletic facilities
  • Endowment
  • Ongoing support

Renovations and New Construction for Science and Math

The single largest project of the Values & Vision Campaign involves renovating Wall Science Building and building a new science and mathematics building to adjoin Wall and the Wren Student Center. The current laboratory spaces in Wall Science Building will be completely renovated and converted for use as wireless computer classrooms, lecture halls and offices for faculty and administrators.

The new science and mathematics building will offer laboratory spaces ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 feet, specially designed and equipped for the study of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology and computer science, including:

  • Physics & meteorology lab
  • Computer science lab
  • Computer projects lab
  • General chemistry lab
  • Organic chemistry lab
  • Instrumentation lab
  • Inorganic chemistry lab
  • Three general-purpose biology labs
  • Two biology field project labs
  • Micro/cellular/biochemistry lab

The new building will have storage space throughout, with smaller laboratory spaces for individual faculty and student research projects. Other proposed amenities include a rooftop greenhouse and a roof platform to support meteorology and physical science courses.

The cost of the renovation and new building will total $13.6 million.

New Classroom Building

Planning is at the early stages for a new $3 million classroom building for the upper quad, possibly to be located between Spilman and Marshbanks. The new building will be approximately 20,000 square feet, with 12 to 14 general-purpose classrooms. Additional spaces for a lobby, offices, restrooms and storage will be included in the plan.

New Student Housing

The campaign includes $4.5 million for the construction of a new dormitory and $ 3 million for the renovation of current student housing. The new dorm will have at least 72 beds. Preliminary plans are in process and the likely location of the new dorm will be behind Moore Auditorium into the hill below Gibson. Comprehensive renovation plans for current dorms are in the formative stages but will include extensive cosmetic and infrastructure improvements.

New and Improved Athletic Facilities

The Values & Vision Campaign will allow Mars Hill to address the most urgent needs for improvements to its athletic facilities. In addition to providing essential repairs to the creek behind the playing fields, plans call for a complete renovation of the baseball field, full refurbishing of Meares Stadium, and the construction of a new regulation track and soccer facility. The campaign budget includes a total of $3 million for athletic facilities.

Marshbanks Renovations

The Values & Vision Campaign has designated $200,000 to be used for phase one of the restoration of Marshbanks Hall. Current plans include the work necessary to stabilize and reinforce the foundation; refurbish existing hardwood floors and replace worn carpets; fresh paint and window treatments. When complete, Marshbanks will house two or three attractive classrooms and will serve as administrative headquarters for Upward Bound, Student Services, the Writing Center and a new Student Success office.


With the generous offer of a $4.5 million challenge gift from the Bonner Foundation, the Values & Vision Campaign will generate an additional $2 million in matching funds needed to secure the gift. The resulting $6.5 million will be used to create a permanent endowment for the Bonner Scholars Program, making it the centerpiece of the honor scholars program at Mars Hill College. The campaign has also designated an additional $1 million in endowment to support other student scholarships. To provide many more opportunities for faculty enrichment and development, the campaign will generate $1 million more in endowment funds.

Ongoing Support

During the course of the campaign, Mars Hill College expects to generate $6 million in Annual Fund contributions, all of which will be used to meet operating expenses and purchase additional supplies, equipment and materials to enrich the learning environment. An additional $500,000 is earmarked for enhancements to the Theater Arts program, and $350,000 will be used to complete Memorial Building repairs. The campaign designates $150,000 for facilities support.

Campaign Priorities

Academic Facilities

  • Ferguson Math & Science and Wall Renovations $13,600,000
  • Day Classroom Building – Upper Quad $ 3,000,000
  • Theatre Arts $ 500,000
  • Memorial Building $ 350,000
  • Marshbanks Renovations (Phase One) $ 200,000

Student Housing

  • New Dormitory $ 4,500,000
  • Dormitory Renovation $ 3,000,000

Athletic Facilities

  • Track & Field, Baseball, Soccer and $ 3,000,000
  • Meares Stadium Infrastructure


  • Student Scholarship & Bonner Matching Funds $ 2,500,000
  • Faculty Development $ 1,000,000

Annual Fund $ 6,000,000

Support Facilities $ 150,000

Campaign Expenses $ 200,000

Summary by Area

  • Academic Facilities $17,650,000
  • Student Housing $ 7,500,000
  • Athletic Facilities $ 3,000,000
  • Endowment $ 3,500,000
  • Annual Fund $ 6,000,000
  • Support Facilities $ 150,000
  • Campaign Expenses $ 200,000

TOTAL $38,000,000

Your Response

In a February 2002 speech to the trustees of Mars Hill College, Dan Lunsford said, “Remember that we are caretakers of this place, established in 1856, a place that has had many beginnings and transitions. It has been given to us to carry this institution forward and preserve its legacy and its honor. Others have prepared the way. We cannot, we must not fail those who came before us and those who will follow. Mars Hill College must survive and thrive because the generation of today and the generation of tomorrow need a place like Mars Hill.”

In 1856, the founding families of Mars Hill College each pledged $1,000. Because of their vision, generosity and faith, Mars Hill College endures today as Western North Carolina’s oldest educational institution. As a member of the Mars Hill College family today, nearly 150 years later, you share in the caretaking responsibilities. With your generous support of the Values & Vision Campaign, you will tangibly demonstrate your regard and esteem for Mars Hill College while assuring future generations of the Mars Hill family access to the resources they need to carry on the proudest, most revered traditions.

Ways of Giving

Donors to the Values & Vision Campaign may make one-time gifts or may fulfill their pledges over a period of five years. Gifts of cash as well as gifts of stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets of value are welcome. Mars Hill College is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization; all gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Various options for giving are outlined below.

Current Giving Opportunities

Cash. Money by check is the easiest and most common way to make a gift. Cash gifts may be used annually as charitable deductions on your federal income tax return to offset up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income if you itemize your deductions. You may carry forward any unused deductions over the next five years.

Appreciated Securities. Gifts of appreciated securities such as stocks, mutual fund shares and bonds which you have owned longer than six months are fully tax-deductible charitable contributions, including the difference between what you paid for the security and its market value when donated. Such gifts are deductible annually up to 30 percent of your adjusted annual gross income on your federal tax return with the same five-year carry-over deduction provision as cash gifts. Remember that you must give the security itself, rather than selling it first and giving the cash, in order to avoid paying tax on the capital gain.

Real Estate. The same tax advantages that apply to stocks and bonds also apply to real estate. You may give acreage, a farm, a lot, a house, a commercial building or any other kind of real estate held longer than one year and receive a charitable deduction for the full market value and also avoid taxes on the profit.

Tangible Personal Property. You may give any other asset of value—for example, an automobile, a painting, a coin collection, a piece of jewelry or equipment—and receive a charitable deduction.

Corporate Gifts. Corporations are permitted by law to give away to qualified charitable organizations up to 10 percent of their pre-tax profits in any given fiscal year. This provision is a double tax saving in that neither the corporation nor the individual is taxed on the gift.

Deferred Giving Opportunities

In addition to current pledges to the campaign, alternate giving strategies should be considered. Listed below are several planned or deferred giving opportunities that will enable you to make an even larger overall response to Mars Hill’s Values & Vision Campaign. The campaign consultant will be glad to review which type of planned gift is most appropriate for you.

Charitable Gift Annuities. A gift annuity is a contract between you as the donor and Mars Hill College where, in exchange for a gift of cash or marketable securities, Mars Hill will promise to pay you a guaranteed income stream for life. The annuity can be for one life or two, which means you and your spouse can enjoy this income stream at a percentage based on your life expectancy.

Charitable Remainder Trusts. Individuals most often use a charitable trust with low basis assets that produce little or no income. Selling the asset and reinvesting for income will generate an unacceptable capital gains tax. When the asset is gifted to a charitable remainder trust and then sold by the charity, no capital gains tax is paid so the full amount can be reinvested to provide lifetime income to the donor or the donor and spouse.

Charitable Lead Trusts. A charitable lead trust is the opposite of the remainder trust. It provides an income stream to Mars Hill College for the term of the trust. Trust assets then revert to family members—typically children or grandchildren. The primary benefit to the donor of a lead trust is that it can produce significant gift tax as well as estate tax savings while shifting assets to heirs outside of the estate.

Life Insurance. By giving an insurance policy already in force, you will receive a charitable deduction for the cash value of the policy. You may take out a new insurance policy on your life or assign one already in force, naming Mars Hill College as the owner and beneficiary. The premiums will be tax-deductible.

Retention of Life Interest Gift. You may give a personal residence or farm and retain lifetime use of the property. You will receive an immediate charitable deduction for the remainder value of the gift based on your age. The property is removed from your estate for tax purposes. The donor is responsible for taxes, insurance and maintenance. At your death or the death of the surviving spouse, the gift becomes the property of Mars Hill College.

Retirement Plan. You may name Mars Hill College as the beneficiary of all or a portion of a retirement plan such as an IRA or Keogh Plan. The trustee of the plan will help you make that beneficiary designation. Upon your death, the gift will come to Mars Hill without probate. Or, if you choose, you can name a charitable remainder trust the beneficiary of the retirement plan. Then your heirs can receive the income for life or a term of years with the remainder going to Mars Hill College.

A Living Trust. You may name Mars Hill College as a co-owner with right of survivorship of any savings account. Upon your death, that account becomes the property of Mars Hill automatically and without probate.

A Bequest Through Your Will. You may name Mars Hill College in your will, or in a codicil to your will, for a specific dollar amount, a percentage of your estate or as a final contingent beneficiary.

Gift Acceptance

The Mars Hill College Board of Trustees must approve all gifts, other than cash and marketable securities. The campaign consultant will be happy to assist you by providing additional information about making various types of gifts for your greatest tax advantage.

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