Please remember in your prayers Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., 63, who died yesterday, Nov. 23, after suffering a stroke last week. He was a professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas since 1987 and served as chair of his department for the past decade. He earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and was promoted to professor in 1998.
A Mass of Christian Burial was at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. The campus tolled the chimes at 10:25 a.m. prior to the Mass and asked for a moment of silence in honor of Hoffman.
Curriculum vitae translates to “courses of life” in English, and Hoffman’s was 17 pages – a testament to the scholarly legacy he leaves behind as well as his eclectic research interests and wanderlust.
Terry Langan, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, described Hoffman as “a consummate faculty member, dedicated to his students, his scholarship and his university.” He regularly taught the introductory course in his department and upper-level courses for majors on American public policy, environmental and energy policy, and comparative politics, with his course in environmental policy his most frequent offering. Hoffman was among the group of faculty who created the Environmental Studies program and served as the interdisciplinary program’s first director. He also served on the Environmental Studies advisory board.
Hoffman’s commitment to environmental issues extended to his scholarship. But that single interest did not define his agenda. He published widely on a number of topics, which included extensive collaboration with international co-authors as well as St. Thomas colleagues within and outside of his department. These projects took him across the globe, to the United Kingdom, Belarus, New Zealand, Canada and other locations. Most recently, he had been looking forward to his spring semester sabbatical in the United Kingdom.
His commitment to community service in the area of the environment was abundant. He was a director of Clean Water Action – Minnesota, director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and director and chair of Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Environment. Widely known by his students, friends and family as “not shy,” Hoffman had a habit of walking into a meeting room, finding it well-lit with natural light coming in through the windows and turning off the overhead lights no matter how many others were already in the room, Langan remembered. “Steve was a conservationist. He even did that in my own office when he came to meet with me,” he said.
Hoffman, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, loved to travel and took 300-plus students abroad over his 28 years at St. Thomas. He promoted and engaged in cutting-edge international activity long before it was mainstream and was one of the core St. Thomas faculty who developed and built January Term Abroad programming through the 2000s, supporting St. Thomas’s national ranking. He successfully co-directed J-Term programs for the UMAIE consortium 13 times, starting in 2000, when he joined Saint Benedict/Saint John’s professor Ernie Diedrich’s Sustainable New Zealand course. Citing that New Zealand was getting “a bit too easy,” in 2007 he partnered with Ken Kemp, a philosophy professor at St. Thomas, to create a comparative politics course that focused on central Europe and the issues associated with European integration.
The UST Environmental Studies Alumni group on Facebook was flooded with notes of sympathy following news of his death. Elise Johnson, a former student of his, wrote: “Dr. Hoffman had a complex personality, much like peeling back the layers of an onion. He managed to intimidate me sophomore year with his breadth of knowledge in almost ANY subject, surprise me junior year with his laid-back, friendly demeanor … and impact me senior year with his profound dedication to his students and genuine interest in their career development. I will never forget the last day of college when he gave me a big, unexpected hug and said something along the lines of ‘you’re going to do amazing things, of that I am sure.’ I can only hope to achieve a fraction of what Dr. Hoffman accomplished.”
Hoffman is survived by his sons, Daniel and Michael, and his fiancée, Denise.
In lieu of flowers, his family has suggested donations, in honor Steve, to the following nonprofits: Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Fresh Energy, Clean Water Action Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio.
Members of the St. Thomas community who would like support or assistance in dealing with Hoffman’s death are welcome to contact Campus Ministry, (651) 962-6560, or Counseling and Psychological Services, (651) 962-6780.