In high school, Tim Hornor, ’97, was an aspiring cellist who planned to study pre-med and music at Baylor University. Those plans changed on his 18th birthday in May 1993, during his senior year of high school. Hornor was sitting in a park and talking with his buddies when a friend nearby did a backflip and accidentally landed full force on the back of Hornor’s neck. “I didn’t get knocked out but I instantly felt all the sensation leave my body,” he said in a feature in Whitworth Today.
Hornor’s parents, Rick, ’70, then an associate professor of theatre at Whitworth, and Susan, ’94, rushed him to the hospital, where doctors told them their son was paralyzed from the neck down and would likely be a quadriplegic for life. Nearly two weeks after Hornor was hospitalized, the physical therapist entered his room and Hornor told her, “The craziest thing happened – I woke up this morning and I could do this.” He moved his feet.
Hornor eventually regained sensation and movement in his limbs, but his dreams of attending Baylor had changed. He no longer had the dexterity to continue playing the cello – at least not for awhile – and his interest in becoming a doctor had waned after seeing firsthand what a doctor’s daily routine looked like. Instead, Hornor enrolled at Whitworth and, still wearing a neck brace, he moved into Baldwin-Jenkins that fall. “At first I thought I might go to Whitworth for a year, then transfer to Baylor,” he said. “But by the end of the year, I loved the friends I made here, I loved the classes I took. I loved Whitworth.”
The recovery process was long, but through it, Hornor discovered his talent for acting. During his freshman year, he tried out on a whim for the spring theatre production of Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid, and ended up being named Whitworth’s best supporting actor at that spring’s Honors Forum. He continued to play lead roles in other productions at Whitworth.
After graduating from Whitworth, Hornor’s acting career took off. He moved to Seattle and took a day job while performing with local improv and theatre companies, most notably the Taproot Theatre. He then earned an MFA from the University of Nebraska, returned to Seattle and hosted a local, late-night television show with his friend and fellow Whitworth Theatre alum, Kevin Brady, ’96, for two years. From there, Hornor decided to give acting his best shot and he moved to Los Angeles.
In L.A., Hornor has landed gigs in dozens of television commercials for everything from Budweiser to Honda. In 2013, he appeared on several television shows, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, True Blood and Parks and Recreation. He also developed a strong community with fellow actors and continues to train with notable directors and the famous L.A. improv company The Groundlings. Hornor and his wife, a writer, are working hard to make it in the industry. “Life as artists is really fun and enriching,” he said, “but the constant uncertainty of it can be really difficult, so it’s a profound blessing to be able to go through it with somebody like my wife.”