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Last original RCC faculty member retires

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RCC president Dr. Elizabeth Crowther (left) reminisces about retiring professor Jerry Horner’s doings in earlier years.

“In the 70s and 80s, this was the best place to be, this side of heaven,” said Rappahannock Community College associate professor Gerald Horner, who retired at the end of the spring semester from a position teaching health, physical education, and recreation.

The last of the 16 original faculty members hired when RCC opened its doors in 1971, Horner has seen the college gain acceptance as an educational institution. The locals, he said, viewed the people that came here to start a college with some suspicion at first, but as a vital part of the community.

Horner holds the degrees of bachelor of science from East Carolina University and master of education from Springfield College. He developed RCC’s first Health and Physical Education Curriculum as well as overseeing construction of the athletic fields, nature trails, tennis courts, and rifle range on the Glenns Campus.

He coached the RCC tennis team, in competition with teams from other VCCS colleges, and organized regional tennis tournaments for the VCCS for over 20 years. He continues to help coordinate the student activities program on the Glenns Campus.

Horner also organized participation by RCC students and staff in the Virginia Community College Play Days held annually from the early 70s to the late 80s. “I still wear the medallion from the year we won with a great deal of pride,” he said.

For close to 40 years he has exposed generations of RCC students to the outdoor experience, from backpacking in the mountains and in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge area to canoeing the Dragon Run and making white-water trips on the Rappahannock River.

However, times have changed since 1971. “When I first started teaching my backpacking class,” said Horner, “we could see for miles and miles. But now, due to the haze and fog from power plants, the view has been greatly reduced. I also don’t see a lot of critters any more. Many of the toads and other small animals that used to be plentiful are gone. We need to convince local power companies to go greener.”

Horner’s concern about environmental damage inspired him to spearhead efforts toward making RCC not only an example of good practice but, as he puts it, “a beacon of information regarding global warming issues.” The college has followed his lead with ambitious plans for recycling materials, reducing energy consumption, and educating the community on this topic.

“Jerry is a great role model for faculty and staff,” said RCC president Dr. Elizabeth Crowther at his retirement celebration on May 12, “and we will try to live up to all that he has done for the college.”

About 80 of Horner’s colleagues and former students attended the party. Many of them spoke up to tell him how much they would miss him and what a difference he had made in their lives. Irene Fluty, administrative assistant to the Glenns Campus dean, read a poem she had composed in honor of the occasion.

Dr. Crowther concluded by advising Horner to “have a great, great time, and enjoy your retirement—but come back occasionally.”

“I’ll always be indebted to RCC for my time here,” says Horner. “It’s been a great run!”

posted 06.07.2009

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