STOCKTON -- The longest-tenured superintendent/president in the history of San Joaquin Delta College, Dr. L.H. "Burnie" Horton, died on Nov. 8 at a hospital in Everett, Wash.
Dr. Horton was 90.
He served at the helm of Delta College for more than a decade, from 1987 to 1999. Among his accomplishments at Delta were constructing the Hazel Hill Child Development Center, restoring campus infrastructure, increasing state-of-the-art technology, advancing educational opportunities for minority students, and raising the quality of faculty and staff.
Today, Dr. Horton's name is found in not one but two places on campus: The Horton Administration Building, and the L.H. Horton Jr. Art Gallery, which was restored in the Shima Center during his tenure.
A full obituary for Dr. Horton, prepared by his family, follows.
Dr. Lilburn H. Horton, Jr. (“Burnie” to his family, friends, and professional colleagues) passed away on November 8, 2022, shortly after entering Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington.
He was born on May 1, 1932 in Haysi, Virginia to Lilburn H. Horton, Sr. and Gladys (Collie) Horton. Burnie’s parents soon moved to Oak Park, Illinois, where he attended public schools, and as the oldest of 5 children undertook the responsibility after his father was drafted into the military of helping his mother care for his siblings.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, Burnie took a job in the Wilson Compton Union at Washington State University, where he met a WSU student, Elizabeth Gildow, who became his wife of 63 years until her passing exactly 3 years to the day before Burnie’s death. Burnie and Beth had 3 children, L.H. Horton III (Belinda) of Naples, Florida, Genevieve (Greg) Merrill of Laverne, California, and David (Diane) Horton of Fort Myers, Florida.
In addition to Burnie’s children, he is survived by grandchildren Nicole, Genevieve, and Alexander Horton, Ryan and Haley Merrill, great-granddaughter Amelia Merrill, and brothers Charles Horton and Michael Horton. He was preceded in death by his wife, his parents, sister Ruth Barker and brother James Horton.
Burnie left Washington State University for a position at Fort Hays State College in Kansas, where he also earned a master’s degree, and then moved to Macomb, Illinois to be the Director of the University Union Building and Associate Vice President for Student Activities at Western Illinois University. While at WIU, Burnie completed the requirements for an Ed.D. degree in Higher Education at Indiana University. The Horton family moved to Springfield, Illinois in the early 1970s when Burnie took the position of Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association.
Burnie was hired as President of Kankakee Community College (Kankakee, Illinois) in January, 1977 and served in that capacity until June, 1987. During that decade, he sought collaboration with a University of Illinois Landscape Architecture group to develop a comprehensive plan for landscaping and tree planting, the result of which was the KCC campus becoming one of the most beautiful campuses in the state. As part of this comprehensive plan, a “prairie acre” of native Illinois vegetation was developed on the west side of the campus, and that became dedicated as the “L.H. Horton, Jr. Prairie Acre” at the time of his retirement from KCC in 1987. Burnie worked with the KCC board of trustees to bring about several building renovations that improved the learning and teaching environment for students and faculty, and the college’s first activities/athletics building was constructed during his tenure. Burnie also obtained an Illinois Arts Council grant for KCC, which enabled the acquisition of Illinois artists’ paintings to grace the halls, classrooms, and offices, as well as financed purchases of some exterior sculptures for the campus grounds.
Since he was still an energetic person committed to higher education pursuits when he retired from KCC, Burnie applied for the presidency at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California and was hired there, where he served from 1987 to 1999. Among his accomplishments at Delta College were restoring of the campus infrastructure, constructing a child development center, increasing state-of-the-art technology, advancing educational opportunities for minority students, and raising the quality of faculty and staff. Continuing one of his keen personal interests, he advanced Delta’s focus on the visual arts through acquisition of art works and development of the college’s art gallery, which is now known as the “L.H. Horton, Jr. Art Gallery.”
Burnie retired (for good this time) in 1999, and he and Beth spent their retirement years near Stanwood, Washington, enjoying picturesque sunset views and peaceful strolls along Warm Beach. With their eyes admiring the beauty of nature that surrounded them, Burnie and Beth became even more aware of the importance of protecting the environment.
During his working days, Burnie took pride in bringing out the best in people and empowering them to lead. Always foremost in his mind was doing what was best for students and for the colleges he served with honor and distinction.
He treasured many friends, especially his good friend since his grade school days, Ed Eckhart, and his longtime colleague in higher education administration, Larry Huffman.
Burnie had many personal interests and particularly loved collecting, including original Audubon prints, art lithographs, coins, stamps, postcards, and historic ephemera. He also enjoyed watching sports and listening to his type of music, with classical or opera music commonly being heard in the Horton home when Burnie was home.
Those who knew Burnie Horton well are probably considering that he may already have developed an environmentally-friendly cloud project or a halo-recycling program in his new heavenly home—with helpful suggestions from Beth, of course. He is likely making sure the Pearly Gates are looking better than ever, too.
An agreement had been made in advance with the Neptune Society Cremation Plan for Dr. Horton’s final arrangements, and as he requested, there will be no funeral or other services. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Burnie’s name may be directed to the student scholarship fund of the Kankakee Community College Foundation, 100 College Drive, Kankakee, IL 60901 or the Delta College Foundation, 5151 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95207.