Horace Turner H’76 was a father figure for generations of Wabash men, and many of them returned Saturday to join his family and friends to honor and celebrate their mentor at the dedication of a classroom in his name at the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies.
Hired as the first coordinator of programs at the then-newly founded Malcolm X Institute at Wabash in 1971, Turner was later named the first executive director of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and held that post until his retirement in 2006. He died July 2 of this year from pancreatic cancer.
As director of the MXI, Turner brought to campus national and international leaders, scholars, activists, and entertainers, meant to heighten diversity awareness and inspire greater conversation of multicultural concerns. He created the KQ&Q Tutoring Program in which the black students tutored youth in the Crawfordsville community. Working with Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Turner coordinated summer programs to engage, tutor and educate high school students in science. He was also the faculty advisor to the WNDY Radio Station, the College’s student-run radio station, and a volunteer track and field coach.
“Horace worked with many of you to find your identity as young black men in a rural, very white Crawfordsville where you could not even get your hair cut,” said Wabash President Gregory Hess. “He was so many things to so many people. He is the reason so many of you graduated and have gone on to do great things.
“When you think of Wabash, you think of Horace Turner. So it is only fitting that we name the main classroom at the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies in his memory.”
Above all, Coach Rob Johnson H’77 said, “Horace cared.”
As a father figure, advisor, advocate, and friend, Johnson added, “he sometimes cared more about these guys surviving at this school than they did.”
“He cared about us and we knew it,” said Willyerd Collier ’75, who was a freshman at Wabash when Turner arrived. “That caring was not something that was confined to the time you were here. It followed you from the time you first met Horace, to the time the Lord took him home.”
On Saturday those men Horace cared so much about returned to campus to honor that love and tell their own stories about the man who, as Jeff Cusic ’87 said, “understood that black lives matter.
“He understood that, and he proved that every day in the lives of all these young black men who came through Wabash. Horace was a forerunner. He understood that success was all about family and relationships. And Horace was responsible for building the family and relationships that have gathered here today to remember this great man.”