Wynn Horton Receives Houghton University’s 2022 Young Alumnus of the Year

April 13, 2022

Wynn Horton’s ’15, career so far consists of a diverse collection of jobs, educational experiences, and volunteer opportunities spanning three states and almost seven years, but each experience is evidence of a passion and drive to help those most in need. And it all started with camp and cupcakes.

Wynn entered Houghton in 2011, a Houghton Academy graduate with an interest in musical theatre and majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Public Law and Policy.  While professors like Ndunge Kiiti, Ron Oakerson, and Peter Meilaender challenged him to think critically and to expand his vision far beyond Allegany County, he enjoyed performing, directing, and producing musicals – including Godspell and Annie, singing in the gospel choir, acting as a student coordinator for the Center for Faith Justice and Global Engagement, and serving in student government.  His editorials in the Houghton Star challenged his fellow believers to live out their faith, become involved in the political process and to overcome fear to do justice. While a student at Houghton, Wynn also began his annual practice of working with Royal Family Kid’s Camp to provide children from Allegany County who have experienced abuse or neglect a week of safe positive memories.

Photo of Wynn Horton
Photo of Wynn Horton

Wynn’s first post-graduate experience dove-tailed with his desire to help others, and while his Houghton degree served him well, it was a job at a local bakery that Wynn had started back in the eighth grade that gave him the edge over other candidates.  From 2015 to 2018 he worked for Help and Emergency Response (HER) Inc., an organization that provided housing, employment, social support, and other resources to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.  At that time, HER operated a fully functioning bakery to offer employment, work experience, and skills development to its residents, while baking thousands of delicious cupcakes. Wynn began in the kitchen, training and supervising employees and volunteers, and he soon took over as Volunteer Programs Coordinator with oversight of public affairs and marketing duties as well.  Even as he filled these roles at HER, Wynn was also working for the YWCA on an emergency hotline for survivors of domestic violence and as a facilitator for a support group he started for male survivors of violence.

The work he was doing for these organizations necessarily involved learning about the systems in place to help survivors as well as the inner workings of the court system, and this experience was a key factor in Wynn’s enrollment at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2018. While he took courses in topics ranging from constitutional law to wills and estates, Wynn continued to pursue justice for those most in need.  These activities included representing indigent clients with misdemeanors for the Indigent Defense Clinic, serving as a legal intern for the Children’s Law Center in Kentucky where he engaged youth for input on strategies for better policing in Cincinnati, and envisioning, planning, and hosting a Juvenile Justice Symposium that brought together legal, mental health, child advocacy, and law enforcement professionals to discuss improving legal and social systems for the thousands of juveniles who are engaged with them each year.  In addition to these and other internships, classes, and activities, Wynn and his wife Kristen (Schnitzer) Horton ’14 served as licensed foster parents in the state of Ohio.

After graduating with honors from the University of Cincinnati School of Law in May of ’21, Wynn was hired as an Assistant Public Defender at the Chesapeake office of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, where he serves as lead attorney on the Behavioral Health Docket and represents indigent clients charged with felonies, misdemeanors, and probation violations.

Wynn enjoys the three key roles he plays in his current work with men and women he represents: that of a legal advocate, a social worker, and a counselor.  When asked about the life-giving aspects of his current work, Wynn’s answer is three-fold “to help someone holistically, to have the opportunity to tell stores and reconstruct someone’s humanity while representing them to authorities, and to go to bat for someone that no one wants to go to bat for.  That’s something I think Jesus would do.”

Wynn and Kristen currently live in Chesapeake, VA where Kristen serves as an 8th grade special education teacher.  Regardless of where Wynn’s career takes him in the years to come it seems clear that he will be acting on behalf of those who need it most.

His former co-worker Ben Ranz, currently serving as a public defender in southern Ohio, said of his friend Wynn,

“His gentle, inviting demeanor is offset by a ferocity like no other that comes out in the face of injustice.”

Kanisha Ervin, current staff attorney at the Ohio Innocence Project and a former co-worker of Wynn’s, perhaps sums him up best.

“He challenges social inequalities with grace and compassion and remains one of my dearest friends.  Wynn is a great writer, but possibly a better orator and advocate.  His presence commands your attention because his glowing track record precedes him. In the years since I’ve known him, he never ceases to amaze me with his innovative ideas and persistence to ensure equity for every individual.”

Please join me in congratulating Wynn Horton as Houghton’s 2022 Young Alumnus of the Year.

Here to receive the award on his behalf is Wynn’s father Jonathan Horton ’82.