Editor’s Pick: UVA Darden Professor Alec Horniman Defined Culture and Conversations at Darden for More Than 50 Years
By Dave Hendrick
Four well-known and much-loved University of Virginia Darden School of Business professors retired from full-time teaching at the conclusion of the 2020–21 academic year — Bob Conroy, Ed Hess, Alec Horniman and Elliott Weiss.
While each left enduring legacies across the School, no one could approach the breadth of Horniman, who came to the School in 1967.
Throughout a career teaching in virtually all Darden programs and across UVA, often teaching a double-load of classes, Horniman helped build the foundation on which much of Darden rests. For instance, he served as the first director of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics and ensured ethics became a core part of the First Year curriculum.
In this profile commemorating his 50 years of teaching at the School, Horniman looked back at his time in the classroom, and looked ahead to starting another year.
Horniman came to Darden in 1967, one of a trio of young professors — along with John Colley and Bill Sihler — who would go on to leave indelible marks on the School, aiding its rise from a regional business school to a globally recognized leader in graduate business education.
Prior to making the journey to Virginia, Horniman worked on the pioneering edge of space technology at North American Aviation, watching as the Apollo was built in the office next to his and pursuing a doctorate at Harvard.
It was at Harvard that Horniman got the call that would help define much of his professional life, when Darden Dean Charles Abbott asked if Horniman would come teach at the upstart business school in the learning and organizational behavior area.
“When I came here, I was an assistant professor and tutored the two full professors on teaching the case each day,” Horniman said. “They were full professors, evaluating me for promotion, and I tutored them for two years — if there’s not a catch-22 there!”
Although he succeeded in walking that particular tightrope, Horniman doubts he could have carved out a similar career as a young teacher at today’s Darden, claiming that he never established himself as a top-notch researcher.
Instead, it was in course development and the classroom that Horniman would find his professional passion and interest, teaching, as he puts it, “everything that moved.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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