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Alex Horsley, Founding Atlanta International Headmaster, Dies After Cancer Battle

Memorial service will be Jan. 14 at the school auditorium

Alex Horsley, the founding headmaster, died Thursday at his home in Atlanta after "a spirited battle with cancer," AIS announced.

"A linguist, teacher, headmaster and international education consultant, Alex was an adventurous, broad-minded visionary whose hard work, persistence, and good humor inspired countless students, teachers, and fellow educators during a 45-year career that spanned six continents," AIS said in its announcement. "Students remember him as larger than life, often calling him 'the Gentle Giant.' He remained endeared to them because he always put them first, taking a genuine interest in each one."

The head of AIS during its first 10 years, for the school's new Early Learning Center, named the Alex Horsley Building in his honor. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed attended the event for the language-immersion center.

AIS, which began in 1985 with 51 students, today has an enrollment of 1,000  from more than 70 countries, along with a faculty from 45 countries. The school started in a small army hut behind a church, with prekindergarten (4K) to first grade. Under Horsley's leadership, it grew rapidly, eventually spanning 4K through 12th grade.

The AIS annoucement said Horsley, 67, led the school through three locations and building campaigns. Before leaving in 1996 to become director of the International School of Bejing, he oversaw AIS' move to the historic North Fulton High building.

From 2002 to 2004, Horsley served as executive director of the Atlanta Youth Soccer Association, where he was instrumental in the building of an inner-city field that has been enjoyed by hundreds of youngsters. From 2004 to 2008 he was served as executive director of the Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education. From 2009 on, he worked as an educational consultant.

Miles Alexander “Alex” Horsley was born Jan. 24, 1944, in Hull, England, and  grew up in nearby Hessle, the school said. He graduated from Oxford University in 1965 with a joint honors degree in French and German. In addition, he held an MA from Oxford (1975), a postgraduate certificate of education from London University (1974) and a postgraduate degree in education management and curriculum design from University of Hull.

A memorial service for Horsley will be held at 2 p.m Jan. 14 in the AIS auditorium, with Mary Ann Downey officiating. Afterward, the family will meet friends for a reception in the exhibition space of the Adair Art Science and Design Center.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Alex Horsley Fund for Language Learning at Atlanta International School by e-mailing Mary Denson in the AIS Development Office at mdenson@aischool.org. For further information, call 404-841-3895.

He survived by his wife of 20 years, Gillian Theunissen Horsley; daughter and son-in-law, Natasha and Richard Weston of Haddonfield, N.J.; daughter, Anita Horsley and her life partner Karen Brack of Eugene, Ore.; son and daughter-in-law, Dylan and Elizabeth Horsley of Falls Creek, Pa.; stepson, Steven Maskell and partner Derrick Brown of New York City; stepdaughter and son-in-law, Bronni and Niko Karatassos of Atlanta; sister, Valerie Gribbin of Hull; sister and brother-in-law, Gilda and Christopher Haskins of Skidby, England; brother and sister-in-law Jefferson and Freny Horsley of Taunton, England; and seven grandchildren.

Horsley served on numerous boards, including those of the Alliance Française, New Era Schools Trust (pioneers of interracial education in South Africa), the Association of French Schools in North America (vic -president, 1991-94), and Friends School of Atlanta (chair, 2004-09). Fluent in French and German, Horsley also had oral fluency in Spanish and Chinese and working knowledge of written Italian, Dutch and Russian.

If you have memories of Alex Horsley, please share them in the Comments section.

Jean-Luc Chatelain December 02, 2011 at 10:59 PM
RIP Mr Horsley, my wife and I still remember what a true gentleman he was when greeting every student (an parents) by their name at the morning drop off in '89.
peter December 03, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I knew Alex very very well over 30 years of interaction in the International School arena.In the old fashioned but time honoured phrase he was a scholar and a gentleman.I shall miss his infectious spirit terribly.Peter Harding
Jim Waddell December 03, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Alex was also a member of the Ansley Golf Club. I will always remember how proud I was, whenever he would invite me to join his Wednesday evening bridge game. Ansley will miss this affable gentleman.

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