Joseph M. Horn Remembered

Steve Balch

Editor's Note: The following is a memorial article for long-time National Association of Scholars member Joseph M. Horn, who was also the inaugural president of NAS's Texas state affiliate. For a full obituary and a photograph of Joe, click here.


Joe Horn, as we’ve recently learned, passed away on August 28th. He was 81 years old. Everyone who knew him during the early days of the National Association of Scholars will appreciate the debt owed to Joe for his work getting the organization off the ground in Texas.

Joe was nothing if not a fighter, fierce in his belief that the pursuit of truth, even in the supposedly protected precincts of the university, could never be accomplished without a readiness to confront and repel those who wanted to shut it down. It was during one of those intense battles—the defense of Professor Alan Gribben, a member of the University of Texas’ English faculty who had the temerity to publicly call into question the politicization of his department’s freshman composition program—that Joe came to the NAS’s attention as a hero of the defense. The Texas Association of Scholars took form around the brave band of Alan’s defenders, with Joe serving as its first president.

Joe himself spent most of his productive research and teaching career in UT’s psychology department, where he studied human intelligence and its heritability. One could hardly have chosen a field more fraught with ideological peril—his choice of subject matter was a significant act of courage in itself. His life’s work culminated in his ground-breaking research on adoption studies, a massive project published as Heredity and Environment in 300 Adoptive Families. Joe also received the President’s Associated Teaching Excellence Award in 1988.

What’s more, Joe was special in that he was the only founder of an NAS state affiliate to hold an administrative position when he took the plunge—that of associate academic dean. Not surprisingly, he was soon returned to the faculty, where he continued his championship of intellectual freedom and his widely recognized research on the psychological profiles of identical twins. For his fearless academic citizenship, he received the NAS’s Barry Gross Award in 1999. Academe’s tragedy is that there have not been many more scholars of his stripe.

Belatedly, but with sorrow and deep appreciation, we say to Joe “Rest in Peace.”


Steve Balch is director of The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech University. He also served for twenty-five years as founding president and chairman of the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Guðsþegn, Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, cropped.

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