Malvern’s first early graduation for athletics in more than two decades was not a simple decision for Alex Hornibrook ‘15 or the school’s administration.
In early September, starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook announced via Twitter that he would be graduating in December to enroll early at the University of Pittsburgh.
Early college enrollment for football is a growing trend. In May 2013, USA Today reported the highest total of early enrollment in schools associated with automatic-bid conferences – 162 players. That record eclipsed the previous record of 141 in 2010, according to the USA Today story.
However, Hornibrook’s early departure is a brand-new experience for Malvern.
“In [24 years], we have never had anyone do this with athletics,” said Director of Counseling Mr. Paul Simpson.
“It wasn’t a result of pressure from my family or from Pitt,” said Hornibrook. “The reason I made this decision was because there is a unique opportunity for me at Pitt, and it is very beneficial for me to get up there as soon as I can.”
Hornibrook chose to accept a full athletic scholarship from the University of Pittsburgh, passing on other Division 1 offers from schools such as Rutgers, Connecticut, Lafayette, and Yale.
Upon hearing the news of Hornibrook’s early departure, some students were left wondering how this was possible.
According to Head of Upper School Mr. Ron Algeo, there was a two-pronged decision-making process for the Malvern administration on this issue.
“First, philosophically, was the school okay with it? Number two, was it logistically possible?” said Algeo.
Philosophically, the administration ultimately reached an affirmative decision for Hornibrook, according to Algeo. He said after judging Hornibrook’s academic and disciplinary success, the administration felt that they were comfortable with Hornibrook being given the ‘Malvern stamp of approval’ a semester early.
“This is a great opportunity for [Hornibrook],” said Algeo. “I thought it would be good if we were able to support that.”
Logistically, it was a possible fit – but not an easy one.
In order to fill Pennsylvania state requirements and Malvern requirements, Hornibrook had to complete four full years worth of English credits and his semester health class, among other classes, according to Algeo.
In all, Hornibrook is taking eight classes this semester, including two single semester English courses and an online health class at night.
Once reaching their decision, the administration presented their findings to the Hornibrook family. Algeo stressed that the administration wanted the family to go into this decision with open eyes.
“At the same time, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave Malvern early,” said Algeo.
“Is it feasible? Yes. Is this what [the Hornibrook family] wants? They took that back home and, ultimately, they said yes,” said Algeo.
When asked about his decision, Hornibrook stressed the importance of the unique opportunity which was available to him.
“Although I will dearly miss Malvern and everything that it has given me, I know I made the right decision that will help my future,” he said.
Beginning in January, Hornibrook will be taking three or four classes at Pitt. “I have not set my schedule yet, but I know I want to major in business or engineering. I may go in undecided so I can figure out what fits me best,” he said.
“I’m most excited for the transition to the college football program,” said Hornibrook. “It’s going to be a great jump from what I’m used to, but I am ready and excited for what it has in store for me.”
Now that Malvern has allowed one student to graduate early, will more be able to? How about non-athletes?
Mr. Algeo said that the administration has established a set of parameters that allow for early graduation inquiries to be handled on a case by case basis. These parameters include academic success, disciplinary record, completion of service requirements, completion of academic requirements, as well as the opportunity which presents itself to the student.
According to Algeo, the bottom line is this: does the administration feel confident that the student is ready to handle the new opportunity that is presented?
“We want to do what is best for the student,” said Simpson. “But we also want to make sure they graduate with a full Malvern experience.”
UPDATE January 2015: Hornibrook decommitted to Pitt and is now enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. Read more.