Dr. Evelyn Horn: A Pioneer Among Women and Hearts
As one of the first 13 women who attended Stuyvesant, Dr. Horn was a pioneer in high school and beyond. After graduating from Brown University, Dr. Horn attended medical school at Mount Sinai Hospital and became an influential cardiologist specializing in right-sided heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.
Reading Time: 10 minutes
Name: Dr. Evelyn Horn
Date of Birth: May, 1955
Graduation Year: 1972
Bio: As one of the first 13 women who attended Stuyvesant, Dr. Horn was a pioneer in high school and beyond. After graduating from Brown University, Dr. Horn attended medical school at Mount Sinai Hospital and became an influential cardiologist specializing in right-sided heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.
How did you eventually receive acceptance into Stuyvesant?
“[For girls], the only way you could go to [Stuyvesant] is your parents had to write a letter to the Board of Education requesting that your test scores for Bronx Science be transferred to Stuyvesant. At that stage, it was harder to get into Bronx Science than to Stuyvesant because, by definition, any place that was coed was going to have a higher cut-off [score]. [But the Stuyvesant acceptance letter] was very discouraging, [saying things] like ‘you won’t be able to do gym, there will only be one bathroom, and we don’t have all the facilities.’”
Describe the political landscape at Stuyvesant.
“I was there during the Vietnam protest days when the students went on strike [...] [Stuyvesant] was pretty active politically. It was the era where there was also the feeling that you could stand up to authority”
How did Stuyvesant prepare you for your career?
“When I say it prepared me for a man’s world, [it taught me how] you compete in a man’s world and what too much and too little is. The usual scenario—if you’re too aggressive, then you’re called the B-word but you also can’t shy away. You have to have a sort of balance, and sometimes, you just have to be comfortable”
At Stuyvesant today, the halls are filled with young women hurrying to and from their classes. Students can choose to take courses such as Women’s Voices or participate in clubs like Girls Who Code. The administration, including high-ranking assistant principals, is composed of nearly as many successful women as men. The Stuyvesant landscape that Dr. Evelyn Horn (‘72) encountered, entering 10th grade in 1969, is nearly unrecognizable.
Born in 1955 to a family of German immigrants in Jackson Heights, Queens, Dr. Horn excelled academically from a young age. “I went to elementary school in Elmhurst, New York, and junior high school in Jackson Heights,” she recounted. Throughout her early years, Dr. Horn developed a particular affinity for the sciences and math, often outperforming her peers.
When the time came to apply to high school, Dr. Horn’s educational environment was in the midst of turmoil. The United Federation of Teachers at the time demanded that the community-controlled school board in Brooklyn reinstate the 19 teachers and staff who were fired without notice and accused the board of anti-semitism, given that most of the fired staff were Jewish. The strike started as a one-day walkout and escalated into public schools closing for 36 days. “There was the major teaching strike. We had a month [when] we were in the basement of a church and literally didn’t go to school,” she explained.
Dr. Horn initially applied for The Bronx High School of Science, which had been coed since 1946, and was accepted. However, she rejected her admission due to the long commute. “The Bronx Science acceptance comes out, I said ‘no, thank you, it’s too long of a ride,’ and my one girl friend who had gotten into Bronx Science wasn’t going to go,” she recalled. Later, with concerns regarding the future of her neighborhood schools, Dr. Horn’s parents decided that she would attend the private United Nations International School (UNIS). “I flipped out that I was going to a private school that I said I won’t fit into,” she recalled.
Fortunately, UNIS increased the tuition that year, giving Dr. Horn the perfect opportunity to convince her parents not to make her attend. In the meantime, she wrote to Bronx Science inquiring as to whether she could reinstate her rejection. “Lo and behold, just then comes the court case of Alice de Rivera,” Horn said. De Rivera, a 13-year-old girl, launched a court case against the Department of Education to receive admission into Stuyvesant High School—then a male-only institution—and won, leading to Stuyvesant’s gender integration in 1969.
Though De Rivera won the court case, the path to attend Stuyvesant as a woman was not a straightforward one. “[For girls], the only way you could go to [Stuyvesant] is your parents had to write a letter to the Board of Education requesting that your test scores for Bronx Science be transferred to Stuyvesant. At that stage, it was harder to get into Bronx Science than to Stuyvesant because, by definition, any place that was coed was going to have a higher cut-off [score],” Dr. Horn explained. Fortunately, her scores were high enough, and Dr. Horn received a letter announcing her acceptance into Stuyvesant. “[But the letter] was very discouraging, [saying] like ‘you won’t be able to do gym, there will only be one bathroom, and we don’t have all the facilities,’” she explained. This inability to accommodate the needs of female students most likely stemmed from Stuyvesant’s limited time to prepare for the transition.
Entering a class of over 620 students that contained a mere 13 women was not for the faint of heart. Dr. Horn was lucky to have an older brother, Larry Horn, to show her the ropes of Stuyvesant, as well as a close friend and neighbor, Eve Berman (‘72), to brave the first day of school with. “I felt supported both between the nucleus of friends from Jackson Heights, and a very close-knit group of friends from [summer] camp. So it gave me sort of a social security net that I wasn’t going to be alone,” she said.
Upon beginning her education at Stuyvesant, Dr. Horn was put into a homeroom with the other incoming 12 girls. “The first month was more uncomfortable, less for the students, but more for the teachers who were used to having all-male classes. For the first month, if I had been given the chance to go to Bronx Science, I might have said yes,” she said. Dr. Horn elaborated that her teachers were accustomed to making misogynistic jokes and perpetuating the traditionally masculine culture that was the norm for the era.
Overall though, Dr. Horn didn’t have a hard time acclimating. “I was a tomboy. I was pretty comfortable playing ball. I was pretty good at athletics,” she remembered. Dr. Horn mused at what qualities allowed her to thrive at Stuyvesant. “Which comes first? Did you have to be confident and a little bit more aggressive and comfortable with the guys to say yes to being put in that [male-dominated] situation? Or did [fighting through] the situation make that [confidence] happen? I think for some of the women who were classmates of mine, [Stuyvesant] might have made [their confidence] happen. But I was comfortable my whole life having lots of guys who were close friends of mine,” Dr. Horn recalled. While Dr. Horn and the other women maintained their friendships, they also branched out. “Each of us sort of found our own niches and traveled in different circles,” she said.
As for the less-than-ideal facilities for women, Dr. Horn found that they weren’t a huge issue. “Most of us laughed it off; it’s not like I’m going to the bathroom all day long. [And] the fact that you didn’t have to do gym, who cared? It was the old Stuyvesant High School, so the facilities weren’t wonderful to begin with. The teaching went on despite the dilapidated building,” she recounted.
When reflecting on her years at Stuyvesant, Dr. Horn described Stuyvesant as overall receptive towards minorities, despite the majority of the student body being white males. Regardless of being a woman, Dr. Horn’s affinity for math and sciences even allowed her to tutor one of her male peers. “There was a guy on the football team who later became a physician [...] Our math teacher made me tutor him in math, and then he became a great doctor. It was sort of a totally organic experience,” she explained.
Dr. Horn believes that being one of the few women at Stuyvesant made her experience there stand out. “As my husband will say, you go to a reunion, everybody knows the nine women. Once you become comfortable and once we became accepted, you were something special,” she said. Though Dr. Horn wasn’t particularly close with the other 12 women who first attended Stuyvesant, she connected with them much later in life, primarily at alumni reunions.
Aside from her experiences with gender, Dr. Horn fondly remembers being an assistant editor for The Indicator, playing the clarinet in the school band, and joining the basketball and volleyball teams at the gym teacher’s request. The political climate of the 70s also played a role in her high school experience. “I was there during the Vietnam protest days when the students went on strike. [Stuyvesant] was pretty active politically. It was the era where there was also the feeling that you could stand up to authority,” she explained.
Above all, Dr. Horn deeply appreciated the intelligence and vitality of her peers at Stuyvesant. “I think what we all remember is it’s honestly the smartest, most competitive place I’ve gone to school—more so than college and even med school. [There were] some of the brightest people, and you learn from each other [...] we enjoyed each other’s company.”
While Dr. Horn ultimately took a pre-med track, she dabbled in multiple fields throughout her time at Brown University: economics, mathematics, religious studies, and philosophy. Dr. Horn remarked that the academic rigor of Stuyvesant prepared her not only for her own courses but also to help her peers. “My roommate was taking chemistry and was struggling a little bit in the beginning, and I sort of said, ‘Oh, why don’t you show it to me.’ It was a little bit embarrassing to her that I, with my high school chemistry, could actually help her, having not been in the class,” she recounted. “When I went through Stuyvesant, I was not quite as strong of an emerging writer. I actually chose to compensate for that in college and make sure I was taking a writing course every semester; I pushed myself a little bit out of my comfort zone.”
Dr. Horn was heavily influenced by her peers when deciding to take the pre-med route—many of her roommates, close friends, and even relatives of friends had gone down that path. The variety of opportunities the medical field offered compelled Dr. Horn toward her career path. “One of my roommates’ father was a psychiatrist and the other one was the exact opposite, a nephrologist, who got to do research every summer up in Maine at one of the labs. It just seemed like a lot of choices,” she recounted. Within the medical field, Dr. Horn decided to pursue cardiology because of its mathematical and logical foundation. “There is something about cardiology, which is mathematically based and the same type of logical thinking that I would say that everybody in medical school would have predicted that I was going to go into. [...] It’s a physiological system that you can sort of think through and model in your mind,” Horn explained. In addition to cardiology, Dr. Horn also considered studying high-risk obstetrics.
Cardiology was still very much male-dominated at the time, and Dr. Horn stated that her experiences at Stuyvesant helped prepare her not only academically but also socially, “When I say it prepared me for a man’s world, [it taught me how] you compete in a man’s world and what too much and too little is. The usual scenario, if you’re too aggressive, then you’re called the B-word but you also can’t shy away. You have to have a sort of balance and sometimes you just have to be comfortable.”
Dr. Horn explained how her career evolved over time and how diverse her experiences were. “I really built this area of pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure that is much less common than even conventional left heart failure. [...] There was a time that I did translational research. There was a time that I directed a fellowship. There was a time that I directed a clinical service. There was a time that I got back to industry-sponsored studies. Then I was able to come back to sort of grant-funded [research], which I had early on in my career,” she said. She is grateful for her success in the field and describes her accomplishments as a staggered progression of events. “I had the opportunity of […] staggering what I was doing so that you can do it all, but just not everything at the same time [...] I had the privilege and the opportunity of doing all aspects,” she stated.
Dr. Horn got married at 35 to a physician who was employed as a deputy commissioner of health before becoming an adjunct professor at Cornell University and working for the World Health Organization. Her two children, Ari and Lois, did not attend Stuyvesant due to concerns about the compatibility of their temperaments with Stuyvesant’s learning environment. “Stuyvesant is very hard for a shy person [...] As wonderful as it was for me, I didn’t think it was the right place for my kids,” Horn said. Ari currently works in non-CIA intelligence and Lois works in healthcare data analytics for a mental health startup company.
Nevertheless, Dr. Horn explained that students shouldn’t be discouraged from entering cardiology and advised aspiring medical students to keep an open mind. “All of these things are doable. Keep certain options open, make decisions that you feel comfortable with, both [in regards to] merging your family life and your work life. Be honest with yourself about what part of [the medical field] you like most and then choose accordingly and keep in mind that you can, as I say, stagger things the way I do.”
Dr. Horn has certainly come a long way from her days as an uncertain adolescent commuting from Jackson Heights to Stuyvesant. Thrown head-first into Stuyvesant’s male-dominated environment, Dr. Horn exhibited true resiliency as she navigated the highs and lows of high school as a member of a gender minority. From her interdisciplinary studies in college to her accolades in cardiology, Dr. Horn has continued to foster the path of learning and service that she first cultivated within the walls of Stuyvesant.