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Treated Like Family

Friends commemorate 50 years since semester in Denmark

Richard Ross and Steve Hornberger in Denmark

From The Ichabod - Fall 2019

Richard Ross remembers persuading his parents to let him spend a semester abroad while he was a political science student at Washburn University.

“I was wanting to convince my parents this trip was a good idea and I ran across a quote: ‘Travel teaches toleration.’ I have never forgotten that quote,” he said.

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s words guide Ross's lifelong desire to travel and learn from other cultures. After spending a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, 50 years ago, the first thing Ross, ba ’71, jd ’75, thought about when he returned home was how soon he could go back.

He made it back several times. Most recently, he and Copenhagen roommate the Honorable Steve Hornbaker, ba ’70, jd ’73, commemorated the 50-year anniversary of their transformational semester with a return trip in February 2019. They relived many of the sights, sounds and tastes influential to them as students. They found the home they lived in and reconnected with their Danish sister. Their hearts were especially warmed when they learned their Danish mother – who has since passed away – saved the photographs they sent her in correspondences over the years.

“I think Richard and I both agree it was one of the greatest experiences we ever had,” said Hornbaker, who has been a judge in the 8th Judicial District in Junction City, Kansas, since 2000. “To relive that in some small way was just incredible.”

Winning the Dog’s Approval

Ross remembers his Danish mother picking him and Hornbaker up in 1969 in a Volkswagen and sitting in the back because her Irish terrier, Anthony Edward, got to sit up front. She set firm ground rules early, but the expectations helped them better settle into their new home. The family – dog included – quickly warmed to the newcomers.

Ross, who is retired after working for 40 years as the reporter of decisions for the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, used a similar approach when he hosted a student from Italy.

“The first day he was here, I set out some rules,” Ross said. “But they were things like, ‘You’re family. If you want something out of the refrigerator, you don’t need to ask permission. You just get it.’”

Citizens of the World

Linda Elrod, ba ’69, jd ’72, the Richard S. Righter Distinguished Professor of Law in the School of Law, also did Washburn’s Copenhagen study abroad as a student and has returned more than 15 times.

“It made me think I am a citizen of the world,” Elrod said. “Every student should have a study abroad experience if possible. It makes one critically look at our system in comparison with others.”

She recalled former student Jessica Dorsey, jd ’09, and her reaction during a law school summer program in Utrecht, Netherlands, in 2007 led by Elrod.

“Jessica looked at me with wonder and said, ‘This program has changed my life,’” Elrod said.

Washburn had the resources and connections to offer the Denmark program to students across the United States when it started. The program outgrew itself, and other universities were able to run their own trips. Washburn still prides itself on international opportunities for between 150-200 students a year to more than a dozen countries. There are 25 partner universities around the world.

“Study abroad is a transformational experience that has the potential to be a catalyst for many different life-changing, career-changing events in students’ lives,” said Tina Williams, ba ’95, study abroad coordinator, Washburn International Programs. “It’s a very introspective experience as well. While you are looking out and learning, you’re processing it and bringing it into your world.”

She studied in Mexico as a Washburn student and encourages those who have done study abroad trips to share their experiences with students. Maybe they’ll go on to have similar experiences.

“I think Benjamin Disraeli is right. Travel teaches toleration,” Ross said. “If you go with the attitude that you want to immerse yourself in a different culture, and not with an attitude your way of life is superior and you’re just looking, you learn a lot.”

Hornbaker agreed.

“You start expanding your knowledge of different people and are able to be more acceptable to their cultures and traditions and not be small-minded about the fact there are people out there who are different than we are.”

A transformative experience

Richard Ross and the Honorable Steve Hornbaker found the home they lived in during their semester in Denmark in 1969. They relived many of the sights, sounds and tastes of Denmark. The study abroad helped shaped their lives and their appreciation for travel and other cultures.

Richard Ross outside home he stayed in as student in Denmark

Houses and boards in Denmark

Architecture in Denmark

Pastries from Denmark


The Ichabod magazine fall 2020

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2020 fall edition online and look for it in mailboxes in October.

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