Kathy Hornsby received her undergraduate degree from William & Mary, but her continuing education came from her desire to serve the community.
“I’ve told people for years that I got an ‘MBA in nonprofits’ from serving with Child Development Resources,” she said.
Hornsby used what she learned serving with that nonprofit in her work with dozens of other community organizations in the Hampton Roads region throughout the past three decades. For those efforts, plus her close ties and multiple contributions to William & Mary, Hornsby will receive the 2019 Prentis Award on May 21 in the Wren Building.
The university presents the award each year to individuals in the Williamsburg community based on their civic involvement and support of W&M.
“What an honor to recognize Kathy Hornsby, who in her passion and dedication represents a powerful example of what a life of intentional selflessness looks like,” said W&M President Katherine A. Rowe. “There is scarcely an area of life in Williamsburg that hasn’t been improved by the generous giving of her time and considerable talents. This is certainly true of her championship and steadfast friendship of William & Mary. We’re delighted to recognize her with the Prentis Award.”
Although Hornsby has attended Prentis Award ceremonies in the past, she never imagined she would be the recipient one day.
“I am rarely speechless, but I was almost speechless,” she said of hearing the news from Rowe. “It was a huge surprise and, of course, an honor.”
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Hornsby graduated from William & Mary in 1979 with a degree in education and moved to Los Angeles the next year with her soon-to-be husband, singer and songwriter Bruce Hornsby. While in California, she worked as a teacher and a graphic artist. The couple moved back to Williamsburg in 1990, two years before their sons, Keith and Russell, were born.
Although she was raising two sons and working as her husband’s business manager, Hornsby looked for ways to become involved in the community.
“I needed to make Williamsburg my home now coming back as an adult,” she said. “I had been a student here, and while I’d volunteered as a tutor with the Rita Welsh Adult Skills Program (now Literacy for Life), I was coming back 10 years later as a different person with a newfound sense of interest in the community and family — curious about what makes a community work and struggle, what can I do for the College — because I knew I had the time and the ability to hopefully learn more and get involved.”
Both of Hornsby’s parents were involved in education: Her father, James Yankovich, was long-time dean of the W&M School of Education (and former Prentis Award recipient), and her mother, Ann Yankovich, was the coordinator of health services for Williamsburg-James City County (WJCC) Schools. In addition, her mother-in-law, Lois Hornsby — another Prentis Award recipient — is a well-respected community activist.
“I was definitely brought up in an environment where education and health are very important in a community,” she said. “I think that sort of led me to my first areas of interest.”
The first organization Hornsby connected with was Child Development Resources (CDR), which offers early-intervention resources for children with developmental disabilities or other risk factors. Under the guidance of then-executive director Corinne Garland, Hornsby learned much about the role and operations of a nonprofit.
From there, Hornsby said she began walking through doors that opened for her — and opened a few herself based on her areas of interest, which include art, politics and public education.
She helped establish the Historic Virginia Land Conservancy (formerly the Williamsburg Land Conservancy) and served as chair of its board. She was also a board member for the Williamsburg Community Foundation, chairing its scholarship committee, and for the Children’s Museum of Richmond, serving on its buildings and exhibits committee as it constructed its award-winning museum on Broad Street.
In addition, Hornsby has volunteered with projects and initiatives at the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, Christopher Newport University, Habitat for Humanity, An Achievable Dream, Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center (formerly This Century Art Gallery), WJCC Schools, Team Flash Track Club, Boo Williams AAU Basketball, the James River Association and the James City County Parks and Recreation Commission.
She has supported countless other organizations, too. When Wendy & Emery Reves Professor of Government Sue Peterson asked Hornsby to be an honorary co-chair for an event benefiting the Williamsburg AIDS Network— after several businesses and restaurants hesitated to get involved —Hornsby went one step further. She offered to host the event at her home.
“It was so successful that after a few years, it outgrew what we could accommodate here,” she said.
Throughout the years, Hornsby has remained closely connected to William & Mary, supporting the Muscarelle Museum of Art and volunteering as the Class of 1979 reporter for the W&M Alumni Magazine and as a committee member for her class reunions. But she said that her service on the Board of Visitors, 2007-2011, was the most meaningful involvement she’s had with W&M. The university’s 26th president, Gene Nichol, resigned in 2008 after learning his contract would not be renewed. Following Nichol’s resignation, Taylor Reveley was named interim president and went on to serve a decade as the university’s 27th president.
“I learned so much about how a public college operates and what the challenges are, but in particular, it was fascinating that we could go through a very tumultuous time and emerge in a most positive way,” she said. “I like to think the Board along with the faculty and staff had a real hand in helping the College come back together after that difficult experience.”
Through her involvement with the university and multiple other organizations, Hornsby has discovered that there are many people who are working, often unseen, to make the community better.
“It’s amazing to find out how many people in the community are truly committed to doing good work and helping people,” she said. “I think sometimes if you aren’t involved in that kind of community engagement, you don’t get a good sense of it. … It sounds trite, but I think I’ve benefited so much from my involvement with the college and our greater community — I got more out of it than I put in.”“I just felt like I learned so much, and I hopefully became a better person for being involved.”