With SART founder, James W. Thomas (left)
The Gentle Giant of Kona
***An Oral History Project at Mars Hill University***
This 75th anniversary commemoration of the founding of Gardner-Webb College (now University) tells the story of the unlikely friendship between college president, Philip Lovin Elliot, and former North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner.
In a time when it appeared the college could fail, these two men forged a plan to save it. It's an inspiring story and illuminates the origin of the University's name--Governor Gardner and his wife, Fay Webb Gardner.
The play premiered on November 21, 1980, directed by Brenda Crosby, and was presented again in 1990, directed by John Brock.
A Time For Singing
Quiet Elegance is a readers theatre script commissioned by the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, for a conference of professional travel writers.
C. Robert Jones interviews legendary Appalachian folk musician and singer, Betty Smith
Commemorating the 75th anniversary of Gardner-Webb College in 1980
It tells the story of Kona, North Carolina poet, Monroe Thomas (1903-1957) who gained virtually no fame for his work in his own lifetime.
Physically challenged, Thomas spent most of his life in the community of Kona near Burnsville, leaving a rich legacy of writing. The play celebrates both his life and his poetry and starred Earl Leininger as the poet, Susan King, and Thomas's own niece, Jo Ann Croom. It premiered in 1984 at the Mountain Heritage High School in Burnsville.
C. Robert Jones
A world-class inn and spa, the Inn is one of the major tourist attractions in the western North Carolina mountains. It was built by Edwin W. Grove (founder of Grove's Pharmacy and Paris Medical Company in St. Louis) of native rock and stone, and at it's opening in 1913, the guest speaker was none other than three-time presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan.
Children's Librarian Charity Ray
The Inn, now on the National Register of Historic Places, made its own history when Axis diplomats were interned there during WWII. The Inn also was used as an R&R facility for returning servicemen during the war, and the Philippine Government in exile. The play starred Deborah Hull and Earl Leininger and was directed by James W. Thomas. It premiered in 1984 at the Inn.
With former MHC First Lady, Doris Bentley
A Chronological List of the Interviews to Date
C. Robert Jones created The Memories Collection, an oral history project of the Towards 2056 Committee at Mars Hill University. (2056 will be the 200th anniversary of the University.)
Political Science professor George Peery, 2009
The Commissioned Plays
Works based on real people, times, and places
(See also Treasures on the Musicals page.)
Jones pictured with Mathematics professors, Susan Kiser and Emmett Sams
History Plays, Interviews, and Nonfiction Works
C. Robert Jones (center) with the authors of
Through the Long Years:
Walter Smith, Darryl Norton, Robert Chapman
Pat Smith (left) and Rachel Chapman (right)
The Gentle Giant of Kona is a readers theatre script, commissioned by the Toe River Arts Council (TRAC), a bi-county arts organization for Yancey and Mitchell Counties in western North Carolina.
NOTE: The interviews are listed in the order in which they were done. (* indicates deceased) The name in parentheses is the interviewer, and the later parentheses denote the time length of the interview. Mars Hill College became Mars Hill University in August, 2013.
1. - Douglas Gordon (Julie Fortney) - Department of Music, "Establishing the Music Technology Components for Music Theory Classes at MHC" (39:23), July 8, 2008
2. - Robert Chapman*, Darryl Norton, Walter Smith*, and Rachel Chapman* and Pat Smith (C. Robert Jones) - "Creating and Producing the Book: Through the Long Years: Photographic Reminiscences of Mars Hill College, Sesquicentennial Edition 1856-2006" (55:36) July 17, 2008
3/4. - Pauline Binkley Cheek and Richard Dillingham (Richard Dillingham and Pauline Cheek) - "The Evolution of the Appalachian Room and the Liston B. Ramsey Center at Mars Hill College" (1:52) July 22 and 29, 2008
5. - Donald Anderson* (Richard Dillingham) - "The Beginnings of Appalachian Emphasis and the Formation of the Southern Appalachian Center at Mars Hill College" (38:05) August 8, 2008
6. Edith Swann* (Robert Melvin*) - "The Office of the Bursar during the Moore, Blackwell, and Bentley Administrations" (40:18) August 11, 2008
7. Harley Jolley (C. Robert Jones) - Professor Emeritus, History Department, author The Blue Ridge Parkway, and “That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace” - The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina 1933-l942, Recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine-2008 (53:20) August 14, 2008
8. Emmett Sams* (Susan Kiser) - "Mars Hill College Math Professor with links to all the MHC Presidents, 1897-2008" (33:18) September 9, 2008
9. Ruth Anderson* (Richard Dillingham) - "A Conversation with the Granddaughter of Mars Hill College President John Robert Sams (1871-1872)" (38:00) September 11, 2008
10. Edwin Cheek and Donald Anderson* (Pauline Cheek) - "The Origins and Development of Appalachian Studies at Mars Hill College." (1:20) September 30, 2008
11. John M. Hough (C. Robert Jones) - "The Department of Education at Mars Hill College" (1:44) October 23, 2008
12. Everett (Buddy) Gill (C. Robert Jones) - MHC Alumnus, 1951; Chairman, Sesquicentennial Committee, "Celebrating the Sesquicentennial of Mars Hill College 1856-2006" (1:18) October 30, 2008
13. Mark Cabaniss (C. Robert Jones) - MHC Graduate, 1982, MHC Alumnus of the Year, 2007, "A Life in the World of Music Publishing" (59:11) December 12, 2008
14. James Malon Fish* (Richard Dillingham) - MHC Alumnus, 1943; Director, Physical Plant at Mars Hill College 1971-1986 (1:35) March 3, 2009
15. Margaret Merchant Verhulst (Gregory Lisenbee) - "English Professor, Mars Hill College; Author" (1:06) March 5, 2009
16. Sue Fitzgerald (C. Robert Jones) - "Director of the Center for Christian Ministries, 1975-1996" (55:51) March 12, 2009
17. The SART Pioneers: James W. Thomas, C. Robert Jones, Bill Gregg, Earl Leininger, (C. Robert Jones) - "The Story of the Founding of the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre (SART) in 1975" (1:18) March 12, 2009
18. David Knisley (L. James Lenburg) - "History Professor and Administrator, Mars Hill College" (1:13) April 9, 2009
19. Page Lee*, Earl Leininger, Robert Melvin*, Thomas Sawyer (C. Robert Jones) - The Department of Religion at Mars Hill College During the Last Half of the 20th Century" (1:22) April 16, 2009
20. Doris Phillips Bentley (C. Robert Jones) Graduate of MHC 1956, First Lady of Mars Hill College, 1966-1996 (1:09) May 12, 2009
21. C. Earl Leininger (L. James Lenburg) VP for Academic and Student Affairs, and Provost (1988-1999) (1:14) May 19, 2009
22. Sylvia M. Murphey (C. Robert Jones) “The Right Arm” to Dr. John Hough and Ray Rapp; Forty-plus years in Education; Career Opportunities Program (COP); Continuing Education Program (CEP); and Accelerated Credit Continuing Education, and Summer Sessions (ACCESS) 1967 - (50:00) June 4, 2009
23. Nancy Fosson (C. Robert Jones) Assistant Registrar (Serving MHC in Housing, CEP, Conferences, Elderhostel and Registrar’s Office 1977- ) (1:08) June 16, 2009
24. Noel Kinnamon* (Carol Boggess) Professor, Department of English, 1966 - ; Renaissance and Medieval Scholar, focusing on the works of Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Dorothy Percy Sidney (1:28) June 18, 2009
25. Charity Ray (Gregory Lisenbee) Librarian in Renfro Library, Artist and Musician (52:00) June 18, 2009
26. David Riggins (John Hough) Head Men’s Basketball Coach (1986-1999), Coach, Interim Athletic Director (1999-2000), Athletic Director 2000 - (1:07) July 14, 2009
27. Nina Pollard (Phyllis Smith) Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs 2005-2009(1:07) July 16, 2009
28. Robert E. Knott (L. James Lenburg) Professor, 1969-1975; 1980-82; 1999-2002 Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chancellor (1:55) July 22, 2009
29. Robert Roy Kramer* (C.Robert Jones) Professor Modern Foreign Languages, 1965-2009, Football Coach; Long-time Chair, Visiting Artists and Lecturers Committee (1:32) July 27, 2009
30. Julie Fortney (C. Robert Jones) Professor of Music 1972 - (1:04) July 28, 2009
31. Donald Schmeltekopf (L. James Lenburg) Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost 1985-1990 (1:06) July 29, 2009
32. Oralene Graves Simmons (Teresa Buckner) First African American Student Admitted to Mars Hilll College, 1961 (46:52) August 6, 2009
33. John Rogers (C. Robert Jones) Architect for Eight Buildings on Mars Hill College Campus (57:00) August 20, 2009
34. JoAnne Alexander (C. Robert Jones) Graduate of MHC 1957; MHC Alumna of the Year, 1993; Board of Trustees Beginning January 1, 1977; First Female Chair, Trustees, 1980 (1:06) August 25, 2009
35. Virginia Hart (JoAnne Alexander) Graduate of MHC 1943; Coach and Professor of Physical Education for 40 years; Founder of most MHC Women’s Sports Teams; Inducted MHC Sports Hall of Fame, 1987; “Omelet Lady” (43:00) August 25, 2009
36. A. Max Lennon* and Ruth Lennon (Robert Melvin) President and First Lady of MHC, 1996-2002 (1:47) October 5, 2009
37. Beverly Lunsford (C. Robert Jones) First Lady, Mars Hill College, 2002 - (1:02) October 26, 2009
38. Don Anderson*, Julie Nooe, Ken Sanchagrin, Gail Sawyer, Larry Stern, Walter Stroud (George Peery) Social and Behavioral Sciences Faculty, 1971-2009 (1:32) November 9, 2009
39. Betty Smith, (C. Robert Jones) “A Minstrel of Appalachia”; Singer, Educator, Author, Historian; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters 2008, Mars Hill College (1:17) November 16, 2009
40. George Peery (C. Robert Jones) Professor of Political Science, Political Activist, Author Actor, Singer (1:29) December 10, 2009
41. Charles Tomlinson (C. Robert Jones) Graduate of MHC 1951, Internationally-known Set and Costume Designer, Theatre, Opera, Ballet, Film (1:26) January 5, 2010
42. Winona Bierbaum* (C. Robert Jones) Mars Hill College Faculty, 1966-2001; Chair, Department of Home Economics; Professor of Education (1:02) February 16, 2010
43. Susan Kiser (Gregory Lisenbee) Professor, Department of Mathematics 1970-73, 1976-1983, 1984-2003 (1:20) February 18, 2010
44. L. James Lenburg (C. Robert Jones) Professor, Department of History, 1973-2006 (1:16) March 9, 2010
45. JoAnn Croom (C. Robert Jones) Professor of Biology, 1976-2010 (59:44) May 6, 2010
46. Arthur Everett Wood*, Professor, Department of Science, 1949-1991 and Nancy Medford Wood, Professor, Department of Math 1956-1994 (John M. Hough) (1:22) May 19, 2010
47. Katharine Meacham (C. Robert Jones) Professor of Religion and Philosophy and Chair of General Studies (1:49) May 21, 2010
48. Jay Ledford (Richard Dillingham) Graduate MHC 1998, Director of the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, 1998-2005. (1:05) June 16, 2010
49. John Wilson Wells, (Katharine Meacham) Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, 2009 - (:47) July 12, 2010
50. Donna Nagey Robertson (Julie Fortney) Professor, Department of Music, College Organist, Composer 1958-2001, (:50) July 18, 2010.
51. Joel Reed (Julie Fortney) Graduate MHC 1968 Professor and Chair, Department of Music 1985- (1:35) July 19, 2010
52. Dan Lunsford (C. Robert Jones) Graduate MHC 1969, President of Mars Hill College 2002- (2:50) July 27 and August 18, 2010
53. Jeanne Threatt Hoffman (C. Robert Jones) Graduate MHC--AA 1960, BS 1970, Widow of Richard Lee Hoffman, Professor of Political Science, Dean / Vice President for Academic Affairs and Assistant to the President, 1959-1994 (1:37) August 3, 2010
54. Ellen Coomer (C. Robert Jones) Director of Health Services 1973-1995; Director of Medical Services 1995-1999, (1:00) October 28, 2010
55. Robert R. Chapman* and Rachel M. Chapman* (C. Robert Jones) Robert R. Chapman, Registrar and Professor of Business Administration, On Staff and Faculty, 1947-1991, MHC alumnus, 1945; Rachel M. Chapman, Professor of Business Administration, 1946-1991, MHC alumna, 1945, (Disc l, 57:02; Disc 2, 49:35) November 18, 2010
56. Gerald Ball, (C. Robert Jones) Director, Information Technology Services 1977- (1:01) December 2, 2010
57. Thomas S. Plaut, (L. James Lenburg) Professor of Sociology, 1977-1995 – (1:06), December 8, 2010
58. The Imperials [The MHC 1960’s Band, including Carroll Aldridge, Bill Brown, David Buddin, Bob Drake, Jay Flippin*, Bill McNeil, Don Peach, Bob Suttenfield, Carlton Wilkes] (C. Robert Jones) (1:25) January 21, 2011
59. Walter P. Smith* and Pat J. Smith (C. Robert Jones) Walter: Vice President of Publications, 1954-1996; Pat: Admissions/Registrar’s Office, 1955-1956, 1958-1959, 1969-1996. (1:50) May 24, 2011
60. Evelyn Anderson (C. Robert Jones) Assistant Director, Computer Center, Payroll, Serving at Mars Hill College 1953-1997 (46:43) May 24, 2012
61. Ophelia (Fifi) Hildreth DeGroot (C. Robert Jones) Mars Hill College Alumna, 1958; Special Assistant to President Dan Lunsford; Director of Alumni Relations 2001 – (48:41) May 29, 2012
62. Karen Hedrick (C. Robert Jones) Gift Services Associate, Office of Institutional Advancement, Serving Mars Hill College 1978 - (51:46) June 5, 2012
63. Frank Quick and William Hutt (C. Robert Jones) Frank: Professor/Chair Department of Biology, 1971-2005. William: Professor, Department of Biology, 1974-2002 (1:28) June 7, 2012
64. Paula Clayton Dempsey (C. Robert Jones) Mars Hill College Chaplain, 1991-2002 (1:50) June 19, 2012
65. Robert Merrill* (John Hough) Mars Hill College Alumnus, 1947-1948, Honorary Doctorate 1991, Lifetime Trustee (46:28) July 10, 2012
66. Donald Russell (L. James Lenburg) Professor & Former Chair, Department of Mathematics 1973 - (1:03) July 12, 2012
67. Ray Rapp (C. Robert Jones) Former Dean of Continuing Education and Summer Programs, Serving Mars Hill University, 1978-2010 (1:02) July 13, 2012
68. Lura Edsall (Greg Lisenbee) Assistant Professor, Dance, Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation 1979-2013 (55:00) July 22, 2014
69. Lora Coomer (C. Robert Jones) Manager Paw Prints Copy Center, 2006 - (31:00) July 23, 2014
70. Gregory Lisenbee (C. Robert Jones) MHC Alumnus-1984; Adjunct Professor, Department of Education, 1995-2003 (1:07) July 29, 2014
71. Rebecca “Becky” Cody (aka Becky Kruk) MHU Faculty 1981 – Professor and Chair, Department of Apparel and Interior Merchandising; and Brenda Russell, Professor Emerita, Department of Fashion and Interior Merchandising, 1981-2007 (C. Robert Jones) (1:06) July 16, 2015
72. Neil St. Clair (C. Robert Jones) MHC, Music Education 1974, MHC, Theatre Arts 1975; MHU Faculty 2000-2014, Chair Department of Theatre Arts, Production Manager SART (1:05) July 23, 2015
73. Richard Dillingham (C. Robert Jones) Consultant-Historian, “Remembering the Blackwell Years and Afterwards,” (2:00) August 11, 2015
74. Scott Pearson (C. Robert Jones) MHC Alumnus – 1984; MHU Faculty 1994 - Professor and Dean of the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Biology) (1:10) November 13, 2015
75. Gregory Clemons (C. Robert Jones) MHU Faculty 1996 - Professor of Spanish and General Studies, (54:00) December 11, 2015
76. Wayne Higgins (C. Robert Jones) MHC Alumnus – 1975, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Mars Hill University (1:32) May 28, 2017
77. Eric and Janis Blackwell (Richard Dillingham, John Hough, and C. Robert Jones) Son and Daughter-in-law of Dr. Hoyt Blackwell, President of Mars Hill College, 1938-1966, “A View of the Blackwell Years from the Blackwell Family Perspective.” (2:00) August 11, 2017
78. Dan Lunsford (C. Robert Jones) MHC Alumnus – 1969, President of Mars Hill University, 2002 – “Question & Answer Session. Questions submitted by Administrators, Alumni, Board of Trustees, Faculty, Staff, and Students,” (1:55), December 6, 2017
This is an on-going series of video interviews of people who’ve had significant involvement with the University over the past seventy years. The interviews provide a rich living tapestry of life at the University.
The Memories Collection is housed in the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies located on the first floor of Renfro Library.
Contact: Karen Paar (email@example.com or 828 689-1262) for more information.