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Remembering Art Hornsby, Professor Emeritus and Extension Specialist

Dr. Arthur "Art" Hornsby photo

Dr. Arthur “Art” Hornsby, Professor Emeritus, Soil and Water Sciences Department. (Photo from UF/IFAS Communication, 2016)

Dr. Arthur “Art” G. Hornsby passed away on April 30, 2021, at the age of 81 in Gainesville, Florida. Hornsby was a successful soil scientist and extension specialist who made great contributions to the field of soil physics. He began his professional career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before taking a job in 1983 with what is now the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department. Hornsby mentored many undergraduate and graduate students during his 19-year career at UF.

Dr. Suresh Rao, UF emeritus graduate research professor, first met Hornsby in 1975. He was a postdoc collaborating on an EPA research project with Hornsby.

“Art and I partnered on several basic lab and field research projects, and in translating research to extension/educational programs,” Rao recalled. “Art possessed extraordinary communication skills, and the ability to explain difficult concepts to diverse audiences — fellow researchers, educators, extension audiences, regulatory program managers, university administrators, and the public.”

“Watching Art move with ease and confidence in such settings, and working along with him, I learned a great deal to become a better teacher and an effective communicator,” he added. “I am indebted to him for that.”

“I very much appreciated and respected Art as a colleague both for his personal qualities and his significant professional contributions,” said Dr. Willie Harris, professor emeritus of soil mineralogy in the soil and water sciences department (SWSD). “Art was friendly and supportive from the time I arrived as a new SWSD faculty, sharing data and software resources that helped to jump-start my research. I enjoyed his humor and downhome quips at morning faculty coffee gatherings.

“I should also mention that my family was graciously hosted at the Hornsby farm where my two children received early riding instructions from Kathy, Art’s wife,” Harris added. “My wife, Linda, and I won’t forget the kindness we were shown by Art and Kathy. We send our thanks and condolences to Kathy.”

man sitting at desk working on computer

Dr. Art Hornsby pioneered the development of computer software programs that allow users to make quick estimates on how hazardous chemicals move through the soil and affect groundwater. (Photo from UF/IFAS Communications, circa 1995)

Hornsby was a national leader in the extension community and was a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy. He had a profound impact on UF/IFAS programs and on our relationships with agencies in and out of Florida.

“Art was one of the first to use computer models to create decision aids related to nutrients and agrichemical use in soil-plant-water systems,” said Dr. Tom Obreza, UF/IFAS interim dean for Extension. “I remember helping him load 5¼ inch floppy disks into an IBM computer for a demo in Brevard County.”

man and woman holding certificate and flowers

Art and Kathy Hornsby at Art’s retirement party in 2002. (Photo from UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department)

Obreza added that Hornsby was a generous person. Upon his retirement in 2002, he and his wife, Kathy, funded an award for excellence in soil and water extension. The Art Hornsby Distinguished Extension Professional and Enhancement Award recognizes state or county extension faculty members with a term professorship for creative contributions and outreach programs related to soil and water sciences. Two awards are given out each year.

“Art was my ‘next door neighbor’ in McCarty Hall A, when I joined the Department in 1998,” said Dr. Rao Mylavarapu, professor of sustainable nutrient systems and director of the UF/IFAS Analytical Services Laboratories. Mylavarapu said Hornsby was down to earth and very easy to approach. “He and I traveled to yearly national water quality meetings during the years he was here,” he recalled. “Art introduced me to several scientists, which was very humbling. I am very happy to have known him.”