Valle Crucis Native And Life Long Educator Among Appalachian Alumni Inducted Into The Reich College of Education Rhododendron Society

Last Updated on July 15, 2018 2:47 pm

*Information provided by Heather Brandon/Appalachian Today *

A native of Valle Crucis, and over 30 year educator, was among four people recently inducted into the Reich College of Education Rhododendron Society.

Mary Hazel Farthing Mast, age 90, taught at Valle Crucis Elementary school for more than 30 years and continues to volunteer there five days a week.  She graduated from Women’s College, now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, at age 18 and married her childhood sweetheart, H.W. Mast Jr., during her senior year. She first taught in the little red schoolhouse located behind the original Mast Store in Valle Crucis, and later at the current school. In 1980, Mary Hazel Farthing Mast earned a master’s degree from Appalachian State University.

Nominator and friend Nanci Tolbert Nance shared, “She is the teacher all educators want to be and all parents want to see in their children’s classroom, the community member everyone appreciates, and the friend everyone deserves.”

Appalachian alumna Mary Hazel Farthing Mast ’80, right, and Reich College of Education Dean Melba Spooner display the framed and matted rhododendron artwork Mast received as part of her induction into the Rhododendron Society. Photo by Heather Brandon

Mary Hazel Farthing Mast retired in 1989 but continued to serve as a volunteer at the school, with an adult literacy program and at a local nursing home. She is also a highly respected member of the Valle Crucis community and her church, Valle Crucis Methodist, where she played piano and organ for many years. She has always and continues to make time to participate in community, church and school events.

  The other inductees are Diana Beasley ’11, John Bost ’70 ’85 ’89, Daron “Chip” Buckwell ’82 ’83. For more information about the other inductees visit this link to Appalachian Today. The induction ceremony was held on June 22, 2018 during a brunch held at Hound Ears Club.

The brunch was attended by the award recipients and their guests, as well as previous recipients, Reich College of Education (RCOE) Advancement Board members and college leadership, including RCOE Dean Melba Spooner and Associate Dean Nickolas Jordan.

“Rhododendron Society members demonstrate a lifelong commitment to education. They serve their communities and share their talents as dedicated leaders and mentors,” Spooner said. “They continue the legacy of great educators, inspiring us and reminding us why we do this important work. True to the purpose of the Rhododendron Society’s core, these individuals reflect great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university.”

Appalachian’s RCOE established the Rhododendron Society in 1999, the university’s centennial year. It is named for the native plant that blooms on and around campus, as well as Appalachian’s one-time yearbook, “The Rhododendron,” that captured the university’s historic moments, activities and accomplishments.

As the highest honor given by the college, the award honors alumni for their exemplary service to education and to their communities. The society recognizes RCOE graduates whose service as teachers, librarians, human service professionals or administrators has reflected great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university.

Beasley, Bost, Buckwell and Mast join a distinguished group of 62 Rhododendron Society members.

Society members give back to the RCOE through an annual scholarship, which is awarded to an undergraduate and a graduate student who are outstanding in their course of study.

RCOE encourages Rhododendron Society nominations of Appalachian alumni currently working in the field of education as well as those who have retired. To learn more about the Rhododendron Society or to view nomination materials, visit

Appalachian State University alumni Diana Beasley ’11, far left, Daron “Chip” Buckwell ’82 ’83, second from left, Mary Hazel Farthing Mast ’80, third from left, and John Bost ’70 ’85 ’89 are the newest inductees in the Reich College of Education Rhododendron Society. The four alumni were inducted into the society on June 22 during a brunch held at Hound Ears Club in Boone. Photo by Heather Brandon



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