Western Kentucky University

Who was Wayne Hoffman?

Who was Wayne Hoffman?


The perspective of Hoffman Institute Director, Dr. Chris Groves:

Some years ago a colleague asked me who Wayne Hoffman was and what he had done to get an institute named after him. After I explained, he laughed in a mildly dismissive way and said that for him to name an institute after someone would take at least half a million dollars. Wayne had indeed not donated a half a million dollars, but I am very pleased to direct an institute named in his memory.

In 1999, when Alan Glennon and I were crafting the ideas for what would become the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, an important question concerned the name. Tossing around several ideas one day, Alan suggested that we name it after Wayne Hoffman, and I liked this idea immediately.

Wayne had been Geography and Geology Department Head for 17 years, and not long after that had died, way prematurely. He was a cultural Geographer with an interest in urban and political geography, and planning, with a focus on contemporary issues of the time (see, for example, Brunn and Hoffman, 1969, 1970; Romsa et al. 1969; Brunn et al. 1970). He was closely involved with the work of the Barren River Area Development District, including the United Nations (UNESCO) designation of Mammoth Cave National Park as an International Biosphere Reserve.

However, Wayne Hoffman got an institute named in his honor because of much more than his professional accomplishments. Although prone to occasional, mild irascibility (in a fun way), Wayne was a kind, thoughtful man who cared deeply about his colleagues and students. Through the years I worked for him, he made our Department a good place to work, and people enjoyed working here.

For example, sometime in the 1990's a graduate student had come from California with his wife and young son to study in our Department. Things were tight for them and for some period they did not have health insurance. During that time, he got an appendicitis attack that required surgery. He recovered just fine, but financially they were completely wiped out from their already precarious situation. At Christmas, there was literally nothing for them or their young boy. I'm not sure now how I learned this, but it turns out that Wayne found out what was going on with the student and his family, went out and got presents from them, and left them at their door in the middle of the night.

In a world with its share of meanness, Wayne Hoffman came every day to his job as a geographer and administrator; he treated people with respect, was kind, and really did care about his students. At least for my vision of a student-centered research institute, these characteristics make a great model for our students, and I am very happy to invoke his memory in the name of our group.

An article in WKU's Talisman in the early 1990's said that:

"Wayne Hoffman admitted that his department is different, but different is good. Hoffman, who has been the geography and geology department head for 17 years, said credit for how well his department is doing goes straight to the faculty and students. 'I take pride that most of the faculty and students participate in public services,' he said. That makes us a little different from some but helps us to stand out more, too.'"

In the article he went on to describe recent department accomplishments, concluding that "'This is only the beginning. People are going to be hearing about the Department of Geography and Geology for a long time.'"

Brunn, S. D., & Hoffman, W. L. (1969). The geography of federal grants-in-aid to states. Economic Geography, 45(3), 226-238.

Brunn, Stanley and Wayne L. Hoffman (1970). The spatial response of negroes and whites toward open housing: The Flint Referendum. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 60(1), 18-36.

Brunn, S. D., Hoffman, W. L., & Romsa, G. H. (1970). The Youngstown School Levies: A Geographical Analysis in Voting Behavior. Urban Education, 5(1), 20-52.

Romsa, G.H., W.L. Hoffman, S.T. Gladin & S.D. Brunn, (1969), An example of the factor analytic - regression model in geographic research. Professional Geographer, 21, 344-346.

 Last Modified 7/22/13