The year was 2006, and students could be found tearing down the Mars Hill Academy classrooms each Friday, transforming North Cincinnati Community Church in Mason back into a house of worship. On Monday morning, classrooms reappeared.
“We didn’t complain – we knew it wasn’t what other schools did, but it was part of being a student at Mars Hill,” said Miss Amanda Hall, a 2006 alumna. “When there was no space for our Spanish class, we had Spanish conversation time at Panera.”
MHA provided an outlet for her love of music – she was a member of the first Chamber Singers and Madrigal dinner and performed in the school’s musicals. Those years at MHA had a profound impact on her life.
“Mars Hill gave me the tools of learning – how to study, read carefully, write well, give presentations, speak in front of people,” she recalled. “My teachers passionately loved their subjects and were experts in what they were teaching. Their love for learning was contagious.”
In fact, it was so contagious, Miss Hall caught the bug herself – and joined the teaching staff in Fall 2013.
Miss Hall, who is engaged to be married this summer, roomed with classmate Betsy Peters Howard at Hillsdale College where she majored in both music and Spanish while Mrs. Howard earned her degree in English, Spanish, and religion. Miss Hall went on to earn her Master’s in Music Education from Bowling Green State University, and Mrs. Howard earned her Master’s in English Literature at the University of St. Thomas. Mrs. Howard currently is working toward her PhD in English Literature from the University of Minnesota.
“I am profoundly thankful for the six years I spent as a student,” said Mrs. Howard, extolling that “unique sense of shared life that Mars Hill gives to its students—what I would call a spirit of holding ‘uncommon things in common.’”
Today, she applies the skills learned at MHA as an English instructor at the University of Minnesota and adjunct faculty at Bethlehem College and Seminary. She also founded Wandeling Press — a collaborative, women's publishing house for children’s books – with Laura Kern, wife of former MHA teacher David Kern.
“A classical liberal arts education, such as the one Mars Hill provides, seeks to connect students of today with authors and texts and readers of countless generations in succession,” she said. “A Mars Hill education exists to extend the fame of God’s name, as it offers an education in a wide range of disciplines.”
Ben Cox, who graduated in 2008 with Mrs. Howard’s brother Michael Peters, finds himself in a completely different discipline – he currently is serving in a neurology residency at Mayo Clinic Rochester.
“Mars Hill did much more than teach me how to memorize or how to pass tests; it taught me how to think,” he said. “As a neurology resident, I see very complex diseases that affect the most complex organ system in the body, the nervous system. I've learned a lot of medical science in college (Grove City), medical school (University of Cincinnati), and residency, but the basic process of being able to logically think through a complicated issue, figure out what assumptions are being made, and explore alternative explanations is something I learned at Mars Hill in eighth grade Logic class.”
Dr. Cox reflected fondly on “the most influential years of my life” – playing in the Celtic band The Real McCoys, performing on stage, and jumping kilt-clad into the pond with Michael Peters after their last final. That fateful dip is now an MHA tradition for seniors.
“The most important lessons I learned were the unspoken lessons of seeing Christ modeled daily in my teachers and peers. MHA gave me a taste of what living in Christian community is like and this, above anything else, prepared me for life,” he said. “Mars Hill taught me that education is not just about how to make a living, but about how to make a life.”
Alumni Amanda and Betsy: A photo from the Mars Hill Academy archives shows Miss Amanda Hall (top left) and Mrs. Betsy Peters Howard (top right) as students performing during the school's production of "Bamboozled."
UCD_9545: Mars Hill Academy 2008 graduate Dr. Ben Cox
Hall_Amanda: Mars Hill Academy 2008 graduate Amanda Hall now teaches music at the school.