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Honoring HT

With the death of our friend Horace Turner H’76 on Saturday evening, Wabash mourns the loss of the father of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies—not simply the institution, but the young men who comprised it. For HT was a man who lived the ideals of the College through his care and mentoring of students, one young man at a time.

Visitation and viewing will take place at Jones Tabernacle AME Church, 2021 Diamond St. Philadelphia, PA 19121 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 8. A funeral service will take place at 4:00 p.m. with repast to follow at 6:00 p.m. Burial will be on Saturday, July 9 at 11:00 a.m. at Bound Brook Cemetery, 500 Mountain Avenue, Bound Brook, NJ 08805.

Many will have much to say about this good man in the coming days, but here are three perspectives on HT through the years from the Wabash Magazine archives.

We’ll leave the final words to HT himself.

 

Father Figure

Horace Turner, when we celebrate the Malcolm X Institute, its students and all its accomplishments at Wabash College, we are really celebrating you. For three decades you have been its driving force and quiet counselor. You have guided not only the programs of the MXI, but also the young men who turn to you for encouragement and care.

A New Jersey native, you earned a degree from Hampton Institute and served in the Army’s Special Services before starting your career. Your connections with Wabash began back in the 1960s when, as a coach at Teaneck High School, your teams competed against those of another young coach in the area, one Robert H. Johnson.

You came to Wabash as coordinator of programs at the MXI; later you were named executive director, a designation you still hold.

The Malcolm X Institute has enriched the entire campus under your leadership, but it is your personal attention to young men of color that distinguishes your Wabash service. Hundreds of alumni would happily attest to the help you gave them, whether it was assisting with a stranded car in the middle of the night, or encouraging them to stay in school in the middle of the semester.

You helped our students establish the KQ&Q tutoring program that enables them to teach youngsters from the Crawfordsville community, drawing town and gown closer together. You assist both the coaches and admissions counselors in recruiting minority students. You have steadily encouraged minority hiring at the College.

Horace Turner, for over three decades of devoted service to Wabash College and its students, for being the father figure to countless young men who sometimes acutely feel the need for something familiar, the National Association of Wabash Men is proud to have you join our ranks as an Honorary Alumnus. Horace Turner, Some Little Giant!

—from the citation from the National Association of Wabash Men read by then-President Rick Fobes, naming Horace Turner an Honorary Alumnus

 

A Brotherhood 

When I arrived in 1997, I walked into a brotherhood at MXI, where men put their arms around us and said “you belong here.” They taught us how to proceed. We learned how to challenge one another as well, which is something I hear we’ve always done at MXI. From challenging each other, we learn how to engage issues on campus.

One of the best ways we learned to challenge ourselves was at the dinner table, ‘doing the dozens,’ and you had to have thick skin to survive that! That experience taught me how to take a challenge, to turn a negative ideology around and turn it into something positive.

What will be our legacy? We still have a father—Horace Turner. And we have a mother, Jasmine Robinson. And today, I think that MXI is helping the College address and move forward on diversity issues, and we can do more

—Keon Gilbert ’01, MXI Chairman speaking at the 30th Reunion of the MXI in 2001.

 

An Advocate for Students

The late 1960s and early 1970s were difficult times on college campuses. It was especially hard for Wabash’s African American students, who suffered discrimination and were often victims of racism. A handful of faculty and administrators had the vision and wisdom to create the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, a dedicated building and mission-based program to provide voice to black students and a place where students of all races could come together for understanding.

Once the facility was in place, the College hired Horace Turner, who had been a high school track coach, worked in retail, and even served in the Army. And when Turner left Englewood, New Jersey, he knew he had a lot of work to do in this town and on the Wabash campus.

The MXI became a haven, a shelter for African American students. There they could be themselves; they no longer had to be “the black student.” They could be called by their name, talk about the issues they wanted to discuss, and even eat the food that made them feel at home.

Alumni I know well, like Eugene Anderson and Daryl Johnson, both use the word “home” when they speak of the Malcolm X Institute. They use words like “father,” “brother,” “mentor,” and “friend” when they speak about Horace Turner.

In Horace, Wabash’s black students found a person at whom they could yell, scream, talk, and cry. In Horace, they found a man who would listen intently to their concerns and make them feel better about their experiences at Wabash.

Jo Throckmorton, a white student who came to Wabash in the 80s from nearby Fountain County, says that Horace was simply an advocate for students, regardless of race. In addition to his duties with the MXI, Turner was an advisor to the student radio station, WNDY. That’s where Throckmorton met him, and Jo talks fondly about how Horace would routinely take students’ ideas to the highest levels of the administration.

Faculty know Horace as a man who has raised difficult issues and asked hard questions. He has been the voice of diversity on this campus — in this community — for his entire life here. When new faculty are hired, Turner asked if candidates from under-represented populations were considered. When programs are established, Turner questions their impact on African American students.

When a new freshman class arrives in August, Horace meets with African American students to offer his help, his guidance, and his advice. (He also tells them where they can get a haircut.) And when that new freshman class arrives, he takes careful note of the diversity of it. If the Admissions Office has a good year with diversity, Horace challenges the recruiters to do even better next year. If diversity numbers are down, he questions the administration about the resources available to recruiters and the recruitment program in general.

But lest I paint a picture of Saint Horace, all of us who love him know his faults, too. Many of us wonder if he knows where the “on” switch is located on his computer. His office looks as bad as mine; picture a couple thousand pieces of paper scattered about as though a window was left open in a windstorm. A mutual friend calls him the “personification of disorganization.”

And that’s okay.

Because when a student needs Horace he’s always been there. Whenever there was a racial incident, Horace was ready to take steps to understand and educate. If a student thought about trashing his education and walking away from Wabash, Horace Turner blocked the door and took the kid’s car keys.

Saturday night’s “retirement dinner” made all of us reflect and remember what Horace Turner has meant to us. This remarkable little community, too, owes a debt of gratitude to Horace, for helping us understand the importance of acceptance and diversity in all its manifestations.

Horace Turner: Some Little Giant!

from then-Director of Communications Jim Amidon ’87 following HT’s retirement in 2006.

 

“Chance, Challenge, Commitment”

When I first came to Wabash in 1971 I happened to find a small group of committed students who exemplified the words, ‘Wabash Always Fights.’ As a result of their courage and perseverance, we were able to make Wabash and the Crawfordsville community more tolerable and respectful to people of color.

There are three words I’d like you to keep in mind today: chance, challenge, and commitment.

Wabash and the Malcolm X Institute give you a chance to fulfill your dreams. We have a challenge before us to serve the legacy of both Wabash and the Malcolm X Institute.

And in order to keep that alive, we must make a commitment that we, too, will preserve and help make sure that the Malcolm X Institute will work for future generations.

Horace Turner H’76, at the dedication of the newly completed building for the Malcolm X Institute for Black Studies in November 2002.