R. Lee Hornbake was born on December 18, 1912, and grew up in a public school teacher’s family in the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1934 from the California State College in Pennsylvania and worked for one year as a secondary school teacher, before beginning his graduate studies at the Ohio State University, where he earned his Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees in Industrial Arts. During World War II, he supervised plant manufacturing training in the Curtiss-Wright airplane factory in Columbus, Ohio.
Following the war, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland as an associate professor of industrial education in September 1945. He was promoted to full professor in 1947 and named chair of the Department of Industrial Education in 1954. His department came to rank as one of the top two in the nation.
In 1956, University of Maryland President Wilson Elkins designated Dr. Hornbake Dean of the Faculty. Four years later, he named him Vice President for Academic Affairs for the College Park campus, a newly created position. Dr. Hornbake became Vice President for Academic Affairs for the entire University of Maryland System in 1969, serving in that capacity until his retirement ten years later. Members of the Commission on Higher Education commented in a 1982 report that “His colleagues marvel at his enormous capacity for hard work and his ability to carry on in any situation with poise and equanimity regardless of the pressures . . . The breadth of his wisdom and the depth of his concern for the quality and integrity of higher education set high standards in a period when standards have lost some of their height.”
In his letter recommending the naming the Undergraduate Library for Dr. Hornbake, Dr. George Callcott, professor of history and former Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, described him as a “consistent spokesman of the finest academic values” and as “a major force within the University, some would say the primary force, for personal integrity, for service to students, and for scholarly excellence.” He was the person to whom University of Maryland presidents and other campus colleagues turned in times of great challenge, and he continued to serve the university in many high-profile capacities even after his retirement.
After a long and distinguished career as an educator and an administrator, Dr. R. Lee Hornbake passed away on November 1, 2000. Help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth today by taking a minute to recall your favorite memory of Dr. Hornbake, or your favorite memory of Hornbake Library! You can stop by the library (in Hornbake North) and see more photographs of Dr. Hornbake throughout his life on the right side of the lobby.