News & Events
2013 Alumni of the Year Recognized
During homecoming festivities, Mars Hill University recognized four distinguished graduates as its 2013 Alumni of the Year.
Harold Newman, Class of 1950
Dr. Harold Newman received his associate’s degree from Mars Hill College in 1950 and continued his education at Wake Forest University, earning his B.S. in 1952 and his M.D. from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1956. Following graduation from Bowman Gray, he left for military service in the south Pacific. Back in the states, after completion of a five year residency at North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Harold and Ernestine Newman settled in Fayetteville. For the past 45 years, the couple’s impact on the community and beyond has been legendary. On separate occasions, Harold served as Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff at both Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital. In addition to affiliations with many professional organizations and service at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, he has been deeply involved with the Baptist Medical–Dental Fellowship.
Since 1974, Dr. Newman has made 22 international medical mission trips, working primarily as a “relief surgeon” in Gaza, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, Ghana, and Indonesia. Beginning in 1992, Harold and Ernestine made 14 trips to the Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe. While Harold tended to the medical needs of the area, Ernestine worked as a Bible teacher.
While touching lives throughout the globe, Dr. Newman is quick to note that his greatest sources of pride are his four children and 13 grandchildren.
Jerrie Oughton, Class of 1957
Jerrie Oughton was born in Atlanta, Georgia to parents who were Southern Baptist career folks. She came to Mars Hill the fall of 1955 from Raleigh, N.C. and was active on campus in the plays, cheerleading and the May Court. She graduated in 1957. She graduated from Meredith College with a B.S. degree, having been chosen as Outstanding Student Teacher of the Year. She did teach, but finally decided to follow her dream of writing for young people. Jerrie wrote for 25 years without a great deal of success; so she is familiar with the word persistence. Houghton Mifflin published five books, the first of which, How the Stars Fell Into the Sky, is still in bookstores and in its 26th printing. Her first Young Adult novel, Music From a Place Called Half Moon, won a national award and pays tribute to Mars Hill College. Houghton Mifflin turned three of Jerrie’s novels into e-books, and Jerrie has published four e-books on her own.
For over a quarter of a century, Jerrie has visited schools, colleges, universities, churches and civic organizations sharing inspiration and creativity, helping young and old alike to find hope that they, also, can follow their dreams. Her message involves the three keys to success: 1.) Have a plan. 2.) Pay your dues. 3.) Have the passion. Books have been published, careers begun, and joyous successes realized. She takes no credit, giving it all to God, in whom she put her trust to begin with. Nearly 200,000 listeners and readers have received the message that they matter and can overcome. She says she is not involved in writing a book right now. She’s just trying to BE the book, for the present.
Rodney Johnson, Class of 1972
Rodney Johnson made his mark at Mars Hill in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, starring on the Lions basketball team as one of the college’s first African-American students to receive an athletic scholarship. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in physical education and spent the first part of his work career as an assistant basketball coach and physical education teacher. In 1982 he became that assistant men’s basketball coach at UNC-Asheville and also created the university’s Office of Minority Affairs. By 1985 he was at the George Washington University, first as an assistant basketball coach, but by 1990 serving as Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services. In 1992 Rodney created the Office of Parent Services, serving as its director for 18 years and its executive director for the past three.
His athletic career at Mars Hill earned him a place in the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989, and he remains the 22nd overall scorer in Lion basketball history. He joined the Mars Hill University Board of Advisors in 2012, and says his goal as a member of that board is to give back something to the institution that gave so much to him as a young man.
Alfreda Gerald, Class of 1985
Alfreda is a 1985 graduate of MHC, and a native of Morganton, North Carolina. She began her singing career at the age of 2. Her mother says “Alfreda could carry a perfect tune at 6 months old; although she could not speak the words, she could hum a perfect melody. Her favorite song was ‘Happy Birthday!’” At 2 years old, she became the mascot of her church choir. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” her mother says. “The time came for Alfreda to sing her solo, and I walked over and handed her the microphone. At that time, the microphone was almost bigger than she was. She held it with both hands, closed her eyes, and belted out a note that made the audience leap to their feet! After the solo, the audience remained on their feet for what seemed like an hour. Instinctively, she took her first bow. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!”
Alfreda has shared the stage with Sir Elton John, Cher, Celine Dion, Donny Osmond, Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Yanni, and many others. A classically trained soprano, she has performed with the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Taliesin Orchestra, and the American Rock and Film Orchestras, to name a few. Alfreda’s voice can be heard on many television and motion picture soundtracks, and on national commercial jingles including Honda, Toyota, Ford, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Coke, Sprite, and General Motors. Most recently, Alfreda was a guest soloist in Tyler Perry Studio’s latest feature film, Madea’s Witness Protection.