In the spring of 1994, Shipley alumnus Bryant “B.J.” Horsley ’97 received a summons to the principal’s office that may have changed the course of his life.
After moving over the Delaware River from Cherry Hill, NJ, to live with his father in Philadelphia, Horsley was doing well in his freshman year of high school, and administrators at his high school took notice. At the time, Shipley was looking to recruit students from diverse backgrounds that could both promote the school culturally and excel academically. That’s when Horsley learned about the opportunity at Shipley. “Not only was I doing well academically, but I also played baseball,” says Horsley, “so I think Shipley thought I could contribute.”
Once he passed a number of tests, Horsley was invited to join the ranks of Shipley’s student body on financial aid. “There was no way I would have gone if I hadn’t received financial aid,” says Horsley, who now credits much of his success both academically and professionally to his Shipley experience.
“I really wasn’t a good student up through the eighth grade,” he says, “and I don’t know where I’d be if I had stayed at the school where I was in [my freshman year of] high school, where many of the kids dropped out or didn’t graduate proficient in many subjects.”
Thanks to the contrast between the high level of education he enjoyed at Shipley and the uncertain path he might have taken had he remained in Philadelphia, Horsley looks back on his time at Shipley with high regard. “I never really appreciated it until after I graduated,” he says.
Beyond his overall experience, though, Horsley attributes a specific skill—his English and writing proficiency—right back to his Shipley education. “I still remember writing and communication lessons that I use to this day,” he says. “I benefited greatly from the writing and text analysis lessons I learned from Mrs. Jaffe and Mr. Blake. It was nearly impossible for me to get an ‘A’ on essays in English class, since the teachers paid attention to minor details in my writing and analysis, and offered so much constructive criticism. Those writing lessons carried me through college,” he says.
In addition to his writing skills, Horsley remembers many of his teachers fondly. “I credit Mrs. Franco with my ability to comprehend and speak basic Spanish, and I attribute my science proficiency to Mrs. Wampler’s enthusiasm and teaching style. I also learned a lot of mental toughness with Mr. Jewitt and Mr. Miller as my baseball coaches,” he says.
Post Shipley, Horsley went on to earn his B.S. in Sports Medicine / Exercise Science, a Masters Degree in Life Science Education, as well as two law degrees—all in less than nine years. “My Shipley experience, especially in science and writing, as well as the college preparation program, enabled me to breeze through college and grad school,” says Horsley.
With multiple degrees under his belt, Horsley employed his undergraduate Exercise Science education as a personal trainer from 2005 to 2006 and then began practicing law. But securing a position as an attorney wasn’t the breeze that graduate school had been.
After spending his first year as a judicial law clerk in the Superior Court, Horsley began the process of applying to law firms. “I must have sent out 200 resumes,” he says. He accepted a position as assistant general counsel for a real estate company, but soon thereafter, another, far more attractive offer came across his desk.
“I interviewed with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office,” says Horsley, who accepted the position in 2008 and served in the education law department of the Attorney General’s Office for three years, where his client was the New Jersey Department of Education.
“Most of my assignments involved prosecuting cases against teachers and other licensed school employees, essentially trying to revoke teaching certificates for unbecoming conduct,” explains Horsley. Teachers have constitutional due process protections in their teaching licenses, so when seeking to revoke them, Horsley had to prove the cases through non-jury trials before judges, which usually required him to subpoena young student victims to testify and be subject to cross-examination by the accused teacher’s attorney.
“Once you get into those cases, you start to see that there are real victims,” says Horsley. “Some of the teachers’ conduct really victimizes their students, and it can ruin the lives of students during their time at school.”
A rewarding experience for Horsley, he notes, “The student victims and their parents are oftentimes apprehensive about cooperating, but in the end are very grateful for what you’ve done.”
Now in private practice in New Jersey at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader, Horsley continues his career as a litigator. “My current practice focuses on labor and employment, civil rights, and education law as a trial attorney,” he says.
And though certainly his work as an attorney is just one aspect of his life, and not all-consuming, Horsley appreciates that his position affords him opportunities to give back and mentor others. “I often have friends and family members come to me with various health and fitness questions or legal issues. I like being in a position to help them along or at least point them in the right direction when they come to me with those issues,” he says.
Reflecting on his career now, though, Horsley still sees his Shipley education as a huge factor in his personal and professional success. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been if I had stayed at that other school and not gone to Shipley,” he says.