Remembering Emil T. Hofman

I was very sorry to hear today about the passing of Professor Emeritus Emil T. Hofman, a legend at Notre Dame, who until recently, was still greeting people on his bench near the Main Building. I met Emil soon after I came to campus in 2008, when he said, “Hey, Dean!” and invited me to sit with him. I returned to my office talking about this kind, elderly gentleman, and Marianne, my assistant who had been on staff more than 50 years, explained, “That is the legendary Professor Hofman!”

Emil T. Hofman

Emil T. Hofman

In our meetings since, he gave me a window into Notre Dame’s vision—not only his legendary teaching career but also his conviction and passion for helping the impoverished country of Haiti embody the University’s mission. For years, he has taken medical professionals, mostly his former students, on “Hofman Reconnaissance Trips” to provide important services to the people in Haiti.  He was responsible for others’ countless gifts of time, service, and financial resources for the program–gifts which continue today.  Even in the last months of his life, he expressed to the Haiti Program‘s leadership his desire to find a way to get back to Haiti “one more time.”

Professor Hofman visits Haiti in 2009

Professor Hofman visits Haiti in 2009

At a chemistry alumni event on the rooftop of Jordan Hall on the day of the 2012 Purdue game, the chemistry department was handing out t-shirts printed “Deliver Me from Emil,” and I heard the story of when his son first created such shirts. When Emil found out about his son’s business, he said all the proceeds had to go to charity. I put on my t-shirt, and as I walked across campus, six people stopped me to tell their stories about the legendary Emil and ask where they could get a shirt.

Just a few weeks ago, I spoke to the graduating Science-Business majors and told them about Emil, who created that major in 1989. He was a remarkably foresighted entrepreneur. We published a booklet for the Pink Zone luncheon, Virtuous ND, last year with nearly 50 virtues paired with examples of people in the Notre Dame community past and present. The picture of Emil on his bench was next to the virtue of discipline (see page 20 in the PDF). Thousands of people have benefited from his disciplined life—and learned discipline for themselves.



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