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Lorrie Horning is best known as the founder of Alaska Junior Theater (1981), a private, non-profit organization presenting professional theater arts from around the word to young audiences and families in Anchorage and around the state. It was started at Horning’s kitchen table as a grassroots effort and three years later was recognized with an award by the Children’s Theater of America. It continues to thrive serving an audience of nearly a million parents and students over time.
The Horning family lived in Seattle for about ten years and during that time participated in the Seattle Junior Programs, one of them a theater program that the entire family could attend and enjoy. Horning served on the board for two years and is where the Alaska Junior Theater idea came from.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, the oldest of four children. She and her future husband attended St. Joseph elementary school. Then, she went on to attend Providence Academy in Vancouver, a Catholic girls high school where she was the Sodality President. She continued her leadership at Marylhurst University in Oregon serving first as the student body treasurer and then student body president. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1964 and some twenty years later received a Master’s of Arts in Education from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. She taught elementary education in Bellevue, Washington (1964-67) and again (1969-71) in Seattle, Washington.
Many people talk about marrying their high school sweetheart. Lorrie and Morris Horning’s story has a much longer time frame. They have known one another since they were 10-year-old neighbors, attended the same elementary school but did separate after the eight grade. Each attending their own boys and girls’ Catholic high schools. They went to separate colleges and married each other (June 26, 1965) a year after graduating. They have two children, Kevin, born in New York City, 1967, while Morris completed a medical internship at Montefiore Hospital and Shawn was born (1971) in San Francisco while his father served in the U.S. Army.
While living in Seattle, a medical school friend of Morris’s offered a practice position in Anchorage, saying there was plenty of opportunity and a great place to raise their children. They decided they would have another adventure and planned to stay for two years.
Before coming from Seattle to Alaska in1980 they went on a year’s sabbatical traveling and living in Europe. The adventure took them and their sons to 13 countries with a four-month residence in Wales. Several of the months included the parents of both Lorrie and Morris traveling with them, all eight in two camper vans. During this time the boys were home schooled with a brief time attending school in Wales.
After arriving in Anchorage, Horning missed the presentation of theater arts for children, so she and five friends who were also parents formed the Alaska Junior Theater. They wanted to provide an atmosphere for stimulating and nurturing children’s creativity and imagination and to provide entertainment, fun, laughter, empathy, wonder, the formation of new attitudes and the development of future adult audiences. During the first five years, continuing to operate from her kitchen, Horning served as executive director/president, and the board volunteered for everything from fund raising to contacting and scheduling teachers for school time shows to counting out the 10,000 flyers that Alyeska Pipeline printed for free into bundles and delivering them to schools to be sent home with the students and much more. She and her husband continue to serve as fund raisers, consultants, and at times help with the school time performances.
Horning has created other, non-theater related entities as well. While serving as Anchorage Medical Auxiliary President, she developed and organized an infant car seat loaner program, PECABU (Protect Every Child And Buckle Up) (1984). This program operated out of Providence Hospital and Alaska Humana Hospital, making infant seat restraints readily and inexpensively available for newborns to new parents, military parents, those new to Anchorage as well as new grandparents with visiting grandchildren. The program was awarded first place by The National Safety Council, Child Safety Division six months after it started. It also received commendations from Mayor Tony Knowles and US Senator Ted Stevens and the Alaska Highway Safety Planning Agency. Horning received an award from the US Health and Human Services, NW Division for her work in developing the program and for her leadership with the Child Passenger Safety Law Task Force. In Alaska Medicine magazine, Volume 26, 1984, page 77, published an article written by Horning entitled “Infant Seats Can Save Lives Buckle Up Save a Life.”
Another program Horning developed was The Wish List 1989, a 40-page booklet containing the wishes and specific needs of over 70 Anchorage non-profit organizations. The Anchorage Daily News printed each organizations’ list. It continued to be published for 13 years. She received the Anchorage Association of Volunteer Administrators Volunteer Award for this project. The Wish List was recognized by the National American Medical Association Alliance.
During a time long before cell phones, Horning created a Student Emergency Wallet Card in 1993, listing emergency and call for help numbers. Working with the Anchorage School District the cards were distributed to 11 junior and senior high schools in Anchorage.
Horning has spread her community activities across many organizations including serving as treasurer of Lake Otis Elementary School; member of the boards of directors of Anchorage Community Schools and Catholic Social Services; member of the Municipality of Anchorage Arts Advisory Commission; treasurer for Saturday Night in the Stacks, Friends of the Library; President, Anchorage Medical Auxiliary and Alliance (five years); President, Alaska State Medical Auxiliary; member of the Clare House Advisory Board and newsletter editor. She and her husband have been volunteers and team leaders on 13 trips building and teaching English with Habitat for Humanity, Global Volunteers and Global Citizen’s Network to Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Vietnam, Mexico, Cook Islands, Italy, Ireland, including another team in Mexico building homes with Jimmy Carter. They also enjoyed meeting the Carters in Plains, Georgia.
The awards she has received are many and include: Alaska First Lady Volunteer Awards, (1982-84 and1985); Distinguished Volunteer Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pacific NW Division, (1984); Clare House Newsletter Editor Award of Excellence from Public Relations Society of America (1992); Alaska Women of Achievement (1990); Anchorage Association for Volunteer Administrators Community Service Award for The Wish List book (1992); and with her husband, Hospice, Heroes of Healthcare National/Global Community Service Award (2003).
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/SMpVtbgTHUM