As Dr. Rex Horne established the career of his “adult life,” as he describes it, he found his calling to be in ministry through pastoring. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Horne served for 16 years as pastor of Little Rock’s Immanuel Baptist Church, helping oversee the relocation of the iconic church from downtown to its current location in west Little Rock.
Throughout his time leading a church body, notably pastoring former President Bill Clinton during his first term as Arkansas governor and into his time in the White House, Horne served on the boards at Batesville’s Lyon College and Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. Through his service to the church and to these private, faith-based institutions, Horne strengthened friendships with Ouachita icons and past presidents Dr. Ben Elrod, Dr. Daniel Grant and Dr. Andy Westmoreland. And in 2006, when Westmoreland left Ouachita for Samford University in Birmingham, Horne was called to a new career path.
“When Andy went to Samford, the Lord asked me to consider becoming president of Ouachita,” Horne told Arkansas Money & Politics. “It was something I had not thought about through the years, but I realized that it was not a choice I was making; it was a calling, a following. While I was called into the ministry to preach, that never was taken away. The way my leadership was to be used, however, had another direction.”
Horne served as the president of Ouachita from 2006 to 2015. While there, the pastor began to appreciate the lens through which Christians look at education.
“We can talk about the entire human experience — our intellect, our emotions, our spiritual side,” Horne said. “For those of us who are Christians, the eternal part of our existence gives us a broader range of education. We’re able to touch on what impacts the total human being and the life experiences that will be coming our students’ way.
“God is the knower of all things; God is the God of truth. What we’re trying to do through our various disciplines and research is to find some truth. That begins, not contradictory to our faith in God. I just think the spiritual side of education enhances our total experience in academia.”
In 2015, Horne stepped away from the university campus and transitioned into serving as president for Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities, an organization that serves the state’s private colleges and universities as well as provides governmental and public affairs support for its member institutions.
But in 2019, Horne was called back into a direct leadership role in education as he assumed the position of interim head for the Baptist Preparatory School in Little Rock, eventually being named president just two months later.
When the Camden native decided to leave Ouachita, he didn’t intend to re-enter the world of education in a leadership capacity. However, Horne now finds himself in that very position, leading the private west Little Rock school amid a national pandemic, the first of its kind.
Horne’s diverse experience in the educational realm helped him realized the future of academia inevitably lies in technology. As the nation’s schools scrambled to continue to teach their students during the quarantine and prepare for a return in the fall, not to mention the possible return of a coronavirus surge, Horne notices even more the “seismic” shift education has undergone since he first began his journey in 2006.
“From my own experience — and still what I believe is best — there is nothing that compares to sitting in a classroom with your friends and peers and being taught by someone committed to education,” Horne said. “To me, the interaction is something we can’t lose sight of, even as we’re entering into unprecedented times.
“We talk about the life skills of kindness, of honesty, of showing up when you’re expected. I think in the midst of all of this and how we’ve grown in technology, if we’re not careful we may miss out on key life messages — how do you relate to human beings? How do you talk to one another face to face? How do you disagree without becoming enemies?”
Horne admits that technology has improved the state and capabilities of modern education in a way not seen before. However, he acknowledges that it will be a “real challenge” as the nation journeys further into non-traditional means of schooling.
“Technology and the way we’re moving is a great opportunity. I don’t look on it as a problem, just something to begin adapting to. It’s here for a while.”