For more than a decade, Dr. Michael Whitehorn has played a crucial role during every graduation ceremony at Hardin-Simmons University. As senior vice president for student development since 1992, he has announced the name of each graduate who was to receive a diploma.
Described by HSU president, Dr. Lanny Hall, as a respected HSU administrator, a highly decorated United States Air Force veteran, a counselor, a gifted professor, and a man of deep faith and high character, Whitehorn returned to a familiar role this spring as professor of English and leadership studies.
Whitehorn has extensive experience in higher education—from administrative positions to professor. He has served in significant positions with three universities, including the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Alabama State University, Montgomery, Alabama; and HSU.
Besides the mantle of senior vice president at HSU, Whitehorn was also the founding director for the HSU Institute for Leadership. Hall says, “In addition to his full plate of responsibility as senior vice president, for the first 10 years of the institute’s existence, he led this effort and pioneered this innovative, multi-disciplinary leadership studies minor. His fingerprints are on every facet of this program.”
At the Air Force Academy, he served as an associate professor of English, teaching composition, all the literature courses, and serving as chief of training for all new instructors. As a member of a highly qualified team of faculty members at the Air Force Academy, he traveled the United States to instruct Air Force, other military service, and university personnel in business writing skills and techniques.
Whitehorn served during the mid-1980s as director of the Academic Instructor School, Air University, U.S. Air Force, which teaches teachers to teach. He also served as the vice-commandant of the Educational Development Center, directing the curriculum and taking responsibility for recruiting, preparing, and retaining students at the only “teacher’s college” in the military services. The school received students from all branches of service, as well as government offices and from civilian institutions.
At ASU, he served as director of the Instructional Resource Center and as associate professor of English. He was a member of the Council of Deans and Directors, was appointed by the president to serve on the Executive Planning Committee for the university, and served on the steering committee for the self-study for reaccreditation under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Whitehorn earned a Ph.D. in English at the University of Denver in 1977. He holds two master’s degrees, an M.A. in English from the University of Denver and an M.S. in counseling form ASU. He earned a Bachelor of Science in international affairs at the USAFA in 1965.
While earning his degree at the Air Force Academy, Whitehorn was an All-American on the pistol team. After graduation, he served as a special agent for the Office of Special Investigations at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas, conducting background investigations; counterintelligence work and surveillance; as well as criminal investigations, ranging from burglary to homicide.
From 1967 to 1968, during a very intense period of the Vietnam War, Whitehorn served as commander of the Office of Special Investigations at Pleiku AB, Republic of Vietnam. There he developed and ran an active intelligence network, designed to keep the wing commander apprised of enemy activity in the area, and continued to conduct criminal investigations.
During the two years that followed, he worked in the counterespionage branch of the counterintelligence division in Washington D.C., where he oversaw counterespionage operations in the Far East and in Southeast Asia. As part of his responsibilities, he observed and participated in high level briefings, including those at the White House. He became very familiar with the workings of the Pentagon and the United States government.
In 1970, he returned to the Air Force Academy to teach in the English department and to pursue his Ph.D. with Air Force sponsorship. Additionally, he graduated from several professional schools, including the Air War College; Special Investigator’s School, Office of Special Investigations; and was a distinguished graduate of the Squadron Officer School.
While Whitehorn has served in many places, under varying circumstances, he says serving at Hardin-Simmons has been the most fulfilling and meaningful experience of his work life. “Many good things have happened during my time as vice president; from wonderful buildings; to academic excellence, notably the leadership minor and the Honors Program, among many others; to great success in athletics; to highly successful graduates, and so much more I could list.
“None of this could have happened without the great leadership and hard work of the board, the presidents, my vice president colleagues, our superb faculty and our outstanding staff members. Yet perhaps more than anything else, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with wonderful students and colleagues in a setting in which we can speak openly of our faith.”
Whitehorn has been honored with the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal, a Vietnam Campaign Medal with Three Battle Stars, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device, and was named Outstanding Lay Religious Leader while in Montgomery.
Whitehorn has also been involved in service to the communities in which he has lived. In Colorado Springs, he served on the Board of Directors for the Brockhurst Boys Ranch. In Montgomery, Whitehorn was highly involved as a deacon and in various other positions at his church, Heritage Baptist. In Abilene, he has served on the Board of Trustees for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center since 2005. At Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, he is a deacon and Sunday school teacher.
He and his wife, Marcia, have four children and four grandchildren. Mrs. Whitehorn has long been an active and vital member of the campus, participating in academic, social, and athletic events on a regular basis.
Whitehorn has served as a key leader at HSU during his 20 years of service. At the most recent December graduation exercises, Whitehorn gave his last charge to the graduates as an administrator. During his introduction of Whitehorn, Hall told parents and graduates, “We thought it would be especially fitting for Dr. Whitehorn to speak to you today, for this is his last commencement during which he will serve as senior vice president for student development. On January 1, he will assume a new role in which he will be professor of English and leadership half of the time, and a counselor for the remainder of the time.
“We are grateful for his two decades of heavy administrative responsibilities. We wish him well in this new phase of his career.”
Whitehorn shares that he is thoroughly enjoying his return to the classroom.