Dan Hornbach, Biology, Environmental Studies

Dan Hornbach, the DeWitt Wallace Professor in Biology, has been awarded the 2011 Thomas Jefferson Award. The award was established in 1961 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation to honor faculty members who exemplify the principles and ideals of Thomas Jefferson. Hornbach was selected by a committee of past Jefferson Award winners.

Here’s the citation:

Dan Hornbach, in the past twenty-five years, you have provided extraordinary leadership to the faculty and the college. You have served as chair of the Departments of Biology and Environmental Studies and have chaired just about every major faculty committee, some of them more than once. You served as Director of Macalester’s Ordway field station for twelve years, and for many years you served as the unofficial coordinator of the science division meetings. On two different occasions, you left your position in the faculty to serve the college as a top administrator. You served as Provost under three different Presidents, Presidents Gavin, McPherson, and Rosenberg. This extraordinary willingness to serve Macalester as a senior administrator illustrates a very deep commitment to the college . . . either that or distinct masochistic inclinations. Seriously, all who have worked with you have commended you for your honesty, your willingness to tackle difficult problems, and your ability to bring issues to resolution. Even those who at times disagreed with some of your decisions always respected you as a person.

One of your most significant leadership accomplishments in recent years has been building the Environmental Studies Department into what it is today, one of the largest and most popular interdepartmental programs in the college. You have hired three outstanding young faculty members, one of whom you just mentored through tenure, and several first rate part-time faculty members. One of the members of the Jefferson Committee commented that you had transformed environmental studies from when it had been in a shambles. Given that the author of this citation headed up environmental studies when apparently it was in a shambles, you might think that he would take offense with such a statement. But, nay. The author realizes that he was serving when the program had no budget, no staff, no faculty, and no teaching relief. With the resources provided you by the college, much of which you worked hard to obtain, Coordinator Shambles completely agrees that your leadership has helped create an Environmental Studies Department that has become one of the college’s signature academic programs.

Dan Hornbach, you are Macalester’s mussel man. Unfortunately, these are not ‘Ahnold’ sort of muscles. No, these are the invertebrate shelled creatures of the St. Croix River that most of us call clams. When others have any interest in clams, it is almost always gustatory in nature. But to you these are fascinating creatures that have captured your research imagination for thirty years, which frankly seems difficult for most of us to understand. You have shown yourself to be an outstanding administrator, but it is clear you are first and foremost a scientist. Your St. Croix research program has just turned twenty years old. During this time, you have provided research experiences for more than 75 Macalester students, an amazing number. One of your requirements for assuming your Provost positions was that you be able to continue your summer mussel research. And you were serious. You continued your research during all eight years you served as Provost, all the while continuing to provide Mac students with summer research experiences. One of those students was just highlighted in Science for his mussel research. You must be very proud.

You have many personal skills and attributes that have been assets for you over the years. Near the top is your ability to acquire and spend money. Unlike most faculty members, you have distinct entrepeneurial abilities. You are always on the lookout for opportunities that can be used to benefit your research, your department, the science division, or the college as a whole. If there is any extra money left over in a budget line near the end of the year, it usually takes you about five milliseconds to come up with half a dozen different ways to spend the money. As luck would have it . . . the Jefferson Award comes with a check . . . and by now you have probably already decided how you are going to spend it.

Dan, for all you have done for Macalester over the years, we thank you. We could not be more proud or honored to award you the 2011 Thomas Jefferson Award.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,958 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.  Learn more at macalester.edu

March 11 2011

Back to top