Winifred Bryan Horner was born August 31, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of four children and daughter of Winifred Kinealy and Walter Edwin Bryan. She graduated from Mary Institute in 1939, a high school attended by both her mother and mother-in-law. Horner then graduated from Washington University in 1943 and married David A. Horner, Sr. that same year. During World War II, she worked as a secretary while moving with her husband to four air force bases during his service in the Air Force Weather Service. In 1946, they used their WWII savings to make a down payment on Wind River Farm near Huntsdale in Boone County, Missouri and were actively engaged in full-time farming and community service. Winifred was Community Leader of the Huntsdale 4-H club in 1948. During this time, she also did free-lance writing. One of her articles was published in the New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town.” In 1948, The Saturday Evening Post published her feature article about the challenges of life on a farm. The article was subsequently entered into the U.S. Congressional Record by Senator Stuart Symington and commended by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Horner also received the University of Missouri Journalism Award for another article in 1958. She and David had four children. In 1960, when the youngest was 4 years old, she earned her Master’s Degree in English at the University of Missouri.
Horner joined the English department at the University of Missouri in 1961, working as an adjunct and an instructor. In 1973, at the age of 51, she entered the PhD program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She completed her PhD in English Language, Literature and Linguistics in 1975. When Dr. Horner returned to MU in 1976, she was Assistant, Associate and then full Professor of Linguistics and served as the Director of the Composition Program. She chaired the committee that initiated the first official “Writing Across the Curriculum” Program at the University of Missouri, a program that still flourishes at the University. She also was the first scholar at the University to unite Rhetoric with Composition. She considered these two accomplishments the most important in her career.
In 1985, Dr. Horner was offered the Radford Chair of Rhetoric and Composition at Texas Christian University, a position she held for twelve years while commuting between Columbia and Fort Worth, Texas. In 1994, she held the Ida and Cecil Green Distinguished Lecturer position at TCU, a position which allowed her to spend the bulk of the year at home in Columbia.
During her academic career, Dr. Horner wrote and published nine books and over thirty articles. She wrote each of her nine books after the age of 62. A third edition of one of her books was published in 2010, edited by one of her former graduate students, Lynee Gaillet, professor at Georgia State University. Dr. Horner’s work focused largely on writing and on eighteenth and nineteenth century Scottish Rhetoric and its influence on American education. To pursue this research, she worked many summers in Scottish University libraries. She also co-wrote three editions of the Harbrace Handbook, for many years the best selling college textbook. Win traveled widely giving lectures and presenting papers at, among others, the Universities of Amsterdam, Aberdeen, Gottingen, Edinburgh, Tours, and Oxford.
In 1982, she received the University of Missouri Alumnae Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Education of Women. In 1991, the Southern Illinois University Press published a collection of essays in honor of Winifred Bryan Horner. She received the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Missouri in 1990 and from Washington University in 2001. In 2003, she was awarded the Exemplar Award, the highest award of the National Council of Teachers of English, given to “someone who is an example of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service to the profession of English.” Dr. Horner served as President of the Rhetoric Society of America and the National Council of Writing Program Administrators in addition to holding offices in other national academic organizations. She also received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Universities of Missouri and Texas Christian, and was awarded Research Fellowships from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Horner retired in 1996, but continued to write and teach, teaching a course in Memoir Writing in the Osher Learning Program at the University of Missouri. In 2008, the University of Missouri English Department named a Fellowship in Rhetoric in her honor, and in 2010 the Coalition of Woman Scholars in the History of Rhetoric named their annual book award in her honor.
Win Horner is survived by her husband, David A. Horner, Sr., daughter Win Grace of Columbia, MO, son Richard L. Horner of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, daughter Beth Horner and her partner, Ron Gurule of Evanston, Illinois, and son David A. Horner, Jr. and his wife Merrill of Columbia and Steelville, MO. She is also survived by her brother John K. Bryan and his wife Doris of Chapel Hill, NC and her seven grandchildren: Leela Grace and fiancé Seth Barr, Ellie Grace, Gabriel Horner and fiancée Andrea Williamson, Wesley Horner, Miski Horner, Alexandria Horner and John Horner.
A memorial service in celebration of Dr. Win Horner will be held at a later date.
Over her career, Dr. Horner encountered numerous single women with young children returning to the University in order to earn an education to be able to support their families. As a result, Dr. Horner and her husband, David A. Horner, Sr. endowed a scholarship for such women. In lieu of flowers, gifts to this fund are appreciated. Donations can be directed to the University of Missouri, Winifred Bryan Horner Scholarship, 109 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.parkerfuneralservice.com