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Karen Dawn Horobin
Sept. 24, 1953 – Dec. 18, 2018
Karen Horobin, a longtime Davis resident and CSU Sacramento professor, died peacefully in her home under the care of her loved ones and the Yolo Hospice. After a determined fight, she succumbed on December 18, 2018, to an aggressive brain cancer first diagnosed after emergency surgery on July 28, 2017. She was 65 years old.
Karen (aka “Kaz” or “Kazie”) was born to a working class family in the English West Midlands, growing up in Tipton, in the historic “Black Country” of the Industrial Revolution. Her English father was an auto mechanic, her Irish mother a homemaker, neither of whom had finished high school.
Despite showing early intellectual promise, Karen disliked her schooling, and hence dropped out at age 15. She then took a series of odd jobs at venues ranging from a Wolverhampton casino to an Ibiza beach resort. Not until about a decade later did she restart her education back in the West Midlands, quickly getting her high school equivalency and then, only three years later, graduating with first-class honors in psychology from the University of Birmingham.
Soon after, Karen entered the graduate program in psychology at the University of California, Davis, where she earned her Ph.D. at age 33 – the roughly 10 “gap years” notwithstanding. By then she had already married Norman Wohlers and given birth to the first of their two children, necessitating that she start making a good income fast. After temporary instruction appointments at UC Davis, she eventually obtained a ladder-track position in the Department of Child Development within the School of Education at “Sac State.” There she advanced rapidly to full professor.
At CSUS, Karen had a distinguished career in both university teaching (most notably her popular yet demanding “History of Childhood” course) and campus service (such as chairing her department through some difficult times). But her most remarkable professional achievements concerned community service, especially developing programs in early childhood education, for which she won numerous awards, from local to statewide. It was not unknown for Karen to convert prize money associated with an award into a charitable contribution to a community program to which she was most strongly committed – and even matching the donation from her own coffers.
Karen absolutely loved to travel, whether with members of her English family, her California family, or some combination together. She would thus seek adventures throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Australia, and beyond. In fact, to celebrate her retirement from CSUS in 2016, she and her husband took a highly memorable trans-Canadian train trip from Vancouver BC to Halifax NS – starting out with the spectacular Rocky Mountaineer. And yet, almost paradoxically, Karen immensely enjoyed working in her backyard garden, attending to the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that would end up in various family meals.
Karen is survived by her two children, Cady Mara Horobin-Wohlers and Brice William Horobin-Wohlers, her step-daughter Sabrina Dee Simonton and husband Dean Keith Simonton, plus her family back in England, including her older sister Iris Ryan and two nieces Lisa Barnes and Nicola Todd, who all flew in for final visits after her glioblastoma multiforme diagnosis was revealed. Karen was widely loved and will be deeply missed.
Karen’s long-term treatment was overseen at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center, which conducts clinical trials aiming to better treat if not outright beat this disease. Persons interested in aiding that endeavor can make contributions at https://braintumorcenter.ucsf.edu/make-gift
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