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University of Missouri

Writing a Winner

Win Horner was a pioneer for writing at MU.

Win Horner

CUTLINE? Photo courtesy of Beth Horner.

Writing a story about Winifred “Win” Bryan Horner is like cooking a plate of spaghetti for Mario Batali or playing the cello for Yo-Yo Ma. The MU professor emerita of English is the reason the university has the Campus Writing Program. An advocate of the Writing Across the Curriculum theories, she led the task force to develop the Writing Intensive program at MU in the early 1980s. Horner, MA ’60, died Feb. 4, 2014, at 91.

Horner was born Aug. 31, 1922, in St. Louis. She graduated from Washington University and moved with her husband to a farm near Huntsdale, Mo. Many of her early writings revolved around farming and community service, including articles published in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” and The Saturday Evening Post.

Horner joined the MU English department in 1961; left briefly to complete a doctorate in English language, literature and linguistics at the University of Michigan; and returned to MU in 1976.

In a 1975 issue of Missouri Alumnus, Horner discussed the decline of basic composition skills among college students, blaming “oral-culture” and TV. “We’re in a language revolution,” she said. “People are not reading — not even comic books.”

Horner preached the principles of “writing-to-learn” and “learning-to-write,” arguing that without writing courses, students wouldn’t be critical thinkers, problem solvers or clear communicators. Since 1987, every undergraduate student must take two Writing Intensive courses, which require at least 5,000 words of writing.

Horner retired in 1996 but never stopped her own writing practice. She wrote nine books and more than 30 articles.

“I have always loved to write,” Horner said in November 2012 after MU established the Win Horner Award for Innovative Writing Intensive Teaching, which recognizes MU faculty who teach a Writing Intensive course. “Actually, I like to have written. Writing is work.”