President Emeritus John E. Horner dies

President Emeritus John E. Horner died Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 at age 92. As Hanover College’s 13th president, he served from 1958 to 1987.

During Horner’s 29-year tenure of leadership, Hanover enjoyed unprecedented growth in its academic programs, financial standing and student enrollment.

Curricular reforms resulted in the adoption of the Hanover Plan in 1962 that divided the academic year into two 14-week terms and a five-week Spring Term, the latter in which students took one course of specialized, intensive study. With some modifications, it still serves as the College’s curricular model today.

By the mid-1960s, the campus expanded to more than 500 acres of land, enrollment topped 1,000 students and Hanover’s assets approached $15 million. This period saw the creation of the Administration Building, Wiley Hall, Katharine Parker Residence Hall, the J. Graham Brown Campus Center and the L.S. Ayres Athletic Complex, a first for Hanover, featuring a football field, track, baseball diamond and tennis courts. Duggan Library followed in 1973, greatly enhancing scholarship and research capabilities for faculty and students.

In the late afternoon of April 3, 1974, a tornado roared through campus causing $10 million in damages to 32 of 33 buildings, destroying two of them completely. In addition, there were hundreds of trees lost, all utilities knocked out, and communication with those off campus was nearly impossible.

Hanoverians, led by Horner, sprang into action. Many students stayed after an early dismissal to help faculty, staff and others clear the debris. Within a week, roads were passable and major services restored. Contributions poured in to cover Hanover’s $1 million in uninsurable losses in just three months. Spring Term opened with full enrollment only 19 days after the tornado.

By fall, most of the reconstruction was complete. New telephone and electrical lines installed underground increased campus beauty. Horner had feared enrollment would drop, but instead there were 50 additional students. By spring 1975, replanting efforts had completed Hanover’s recovery.

It was Horner’s finest hour as Hanover’s president, but the College would enjoy many more triumphs in the 1970s and 1980s. A new Center for Fine Arts opened in 1978, and two fundraising drives raised more than $10 million each. When Horner retired in 1987, Hanover’s endowment was more than $40 million.

The College plans to hold a memorial service later this year.

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