HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 22, 2017) – A warm late summer day mirrored the feelings being expressed toward a distinguished alumna as Hampton University's School of Science and Technology was named in honor of Wilma Olivia Harper Horne (’64, ’68).
“The significance of this, to me, is that it is happening while I can see it with my living eyes,” Horne said.
Horne has given in excess of “seven figures,” according to Dr. Harvey, to her beloved Hampton University. She encouraged current students as well as alumni to begin supporting their alma mater after acquiring their first paid-position, and to continue to do so every year, as she has done.
“Ms. Horne never forgot about her ‘Home by the Sea’ and how it has impacted her,” Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey said at the dedication ceremony. “This is a magnificent demonstration of her love for this world class institution."
Standing on the front landing of the building that now bears her name, with a commanding voice and presence, Horne looked directly at the students and shared passionate words of wisdom.
“Women in the sciences and technology and all students, your years at Hampton will absolutely prepare you for success in this life,” Horne said. “It will begin to come, if not already, the second you graduate. Always remember what has grounded you and given you the opportunity to be so successful. Believe it or not, it is Hampton University.”
As a woman of color with a background in math and physics, Horne is truly rare, especially for her generation. In 1964, she graduated from then-Hampton Institute with a degree in mathematics and a minor in physics. Four years later, she completed her master’s degree in mathematics education.
“As Chair of Hampton University’s Mathematics Department, I am beyond delighted to see Ms. Horne’s name on the science and technology building,” Dr. Arun K. Verma said. “Since joining the department in 1989, my colleagues and I have worked hard to attract more young women, like her, and it has not been easy. Ms. Horne is a perfect role model for all women who have an interest in mathematics; that success is achievable.”
A native of Portsmouth, Va., Horne graduated from I. C. Norcom High School in 1960. Horne taught for seven years with Chesapeake Public Schools before beginning a 30-year information technology career in corporate America. She ascended to senior management for Air Products & Chemicals, Xerox, Burroughs (later Unisys), The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Ethicon, Inc. (a Johnson & Johnson Company).
Horne retired in 1999 to spend more time with her family, travel, garden, cook and play bridge (she's a member of the American Bridge Association and the American Contract Bridge League). But throughout her life, she never lost sight of her “Home By the Sea” and how it got her off to a great start.
“My name on this building reflects my education and my career,” Ms. Horne said. “It is the greatest statement of recognition for my life’s work that I think I will ever see.”