In the fall of 1941, Joyce Hine was introduced to her first-grade peers as a relative of educator and social reformer Horace Mann, who founded Westfield State University. Seventy-one years later, in 2012, granddaughter Kayla Rosenbeck ’16 was acknowledged the same way during Accepted Students Day at Westfield State University. “I’m so proud that she’s carrying on his legacy,” Hine says.
Now a senior biology major, Rosenbeck is poised to become the first-ever descendant of Horace Mann to graduate from Westfield State. “College was never optional,” she says. “I want to be the best person I can be and continually better myself.”
Rosenbeck channels Mann’s spirit of determination. She attended Junior National Young Leadership Conference from sixth grade through high school and even attended an alumni trip in 2012 to New Orleans to help with clean-up and rebuilding efforts. “She embodies everything I think of when I hear the name Horace Mann,” says Rosenbeck’s mother, Karen Polk. “She cares about everyone.”
Rosenbeck learned of her family’s connection to Mann from Polk, who learned the stories from her mother—Hine. “It’s important to understand that public education started somewhere,” Polk says, noting that the family has nurtured a natural curiosity about Mann and studied his life. “Horace gave up his law practice to fight for public education, which proves that one person can make a difference.”
Rosenbeck will graduate with an impressive resume. She completed an internship at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn., and the research she conducted on the germination of spores will be published in a scientific journal.
When asked what she would say to Mann if given the opportunity, Rosenbeck had two simple words: “Thank you.”