Preserving the History of Skydiving—Mike Horan Receives the 2018 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

A USPA Staff Report

Features | September 2019
Sunday, September 1, 2019

At its 2018 summer meeting, the USPA Board of Directors chose Mike Horan, D-881, to receive its prestigious Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. Every year, USPA presents a select few recipients with this award, which honors “outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made significant contributions to the skydiving community.” Over more than five decades, Horan has been an instructor, Safety and Training Advisor, competitor, rigger, member of the USPA Board and active jumper. But he is perhaps best known for his contributions toward preserving the history of the sport.

A USPA Lifetime Member who now hwas more than 3,200 jumps, Horan began skydiving in 1963 after returning from service with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. He took up the sport with gusto and soon became involved in competition. As Horan pursued his skydiving education, he pursued a more traditional education, as well. He initially attended Indiana University on the G.I. Bill, obtaining an undergraduate degree in sociology and a master’s degree in clinical social work. Later, he went on to receive his doctorate in higher education leadership at Florida State University. With his academic and skydiving credentials, it’s no wonder that Horan became the sport’s premiere archivist and historian.

Horan served on the USPA Board of Directors as Mideast Conference Director from 1979-1986. Among his other accomplishments, he was a key figure in organizing the USPA Nationals in Richmond, Indiana, in 1979 and 1980. Working hand-in-hand with the event hosts, the Richmond Jaycees, his labors helped to make the championships an enormous success.

While serving as Mideast Conference Director, Horan wrote a newsletter entitled “Freefall” for dissemination within the conference he served. Before, during and after his time on the board, he also regularly contributed articles to Parachutist, as well as other skydiving publications. Over the years, hundreds of Parachutist articles have carried his byline, and his authorship continues to this day. In addition, Horan has authored three books related to the sport, “Index to Parachuting 1900-1975,” “Parachuting Folklore: The Evolution of Freefall” and “Index to Parachuting 1976-1980.”

For decades, Horan assembled an extensive library related to skydiving (collecting and binding every English-language skydiving magazine he could find and assembling a library of more than 250 skydiving books). The International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame now houses this collection. Today, Horan continues his archival activities as a trustee of the museum and a member of its Building & Exhibits Design and Curations Committees. Through these efforts, he continues to preserve the history of skydiving and USPA.

USPA Executive Director Emeritus Norman Heaton presented Horan with his Gold Medal on November 2, 2018, at the Skydiving Hall of Fame Induction Barbecue at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida, surrounded, fittingly, by those whose accomplishments he’d preserved for history. The inscription on his plaque reads, “For his instrumental role in preserving the history of skydiving and USPA by serving as the organization’s archivist, assembling more than a century of the sport’s history and sharing the information freely with USPA and the skydiving community.”

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