Argus Leader: Student Noted for Little Acts and Big Ideas

Covenant Award winner at Augustana focuses energy on global, social issues


It was a scene of contrasts when a packed house at the Elmen Center applauded the appearance of two women last month. One was retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, arriving at Augustana College to speak in the Boe Forum lecture series. The other was Jamie Horter, a senior chemistry and art student from Bristol, a tiny town in northeast South Dakota.

Rob Oliver, the Augustana president, introduced Horter as winner of the school's Covenant Award for liberal arts. She stood in the middle of the audience, smiled through the applause and then walked to the stage, where Oliver draped a medal around her neck. She shook hands with O'Connor and sat down again next to her parents, Randy and Bonnie Horter.

O'Connor was a game-changer, the first woman on the Supreme Court, a swing vote on abortion and George W. Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential election.

Horter, 21, is a game-changer, too, but in ways far from the sound of 3,000 people clapping for her in a college gym. Success for her will be measured by an absence of applause. The proof is her wish list that tilts toward saving the planet. Take shorter showers, she says. Turn off the lights, carry a coffee mug, use real plates instead of paper, host no-waste parties and stop buying bottled water. Simple steps change things.

"You'd be amazed," she said.

But it's deeper matters of human interaction that marked her for recognition at the Elmen Center. Horter the student environmentalist who helped start a campus bicycle service and put recycling bins on every dorm floor is also the student team-builder who tries to help others wrestle with big ideas.

Oliver said as much in introducing her. He noted her role in a project to post photographs for an anti-hunger project. The photos, by Richard Reedy, showed empty refrigerators in Sioux Falls homes. Horter put them up near the buffet line at the Commons so that students couldn't miss them.

"It hit close to home," said Natalie Ronning, a sophomore from Rapid City, said of the display, though not everyone was so moved. Keith Abele, a freshman from Minnesota, said he thought the photos were just more art on the walls. "It didn't have that big an impact," he said.

Cathy Brechtelsbauer, an advocate for the needy, said the point of the display was discussion.

"Jamie is an artist with a social conscience," she said.

Horter is president this year of Augie Green, a campus group that put bicycles for common use in racks around campus and sells reusable tote bags for $2.

As an art major at Augustana, her emphasis is photography.

"Images make people take on an issue head-on," she said.

As a chemistry major, she leans toward research in neuroscience. She's unsure what career lies ahead after graduation.

"But I'm working on it," she said.

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Jon Walker
The Argus Leader
Phone: 605.331.2206