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Comments from Father Hoff

Former University president and chancellor speaks on ethics, becoming a Jesuit and quality graduates

07/23/04

Selected comments from James E. Hoff, S.J., during his tenure as president of Xavier University:

On becoming a Jesuit
“I had been thinking about being a Jesuit for years, and I’d been putting it in the back of my mind because I didn’t want to do it. There were other things I wanted to do—get married, have a family, be a physician. But whenever I’d become quiet and reflective, I had the sense that this is what the Lord wanted of me—to go in this direction. I thought that, as a physician, you can help a person regain their health, but the person will eventually die anyway. But if you help a person find God, the results of that go on forever.”
Article in Xavier magazine, Winter 1991

On choosing to minister to those who are dying
“My special interest was issues surrounding the care of people with life-threatening illness. So I spent a lot of time with people who had cancer. People who have a life-threatening illness, dying people, are great teachers in the sense that they know what’s important because they don’t have much time left. If I had only a few months left of my life chances are I’m going to zero in on what’s truly important and take care of that.”
From a “Careers that make a difference day” speech, March 1, 1991

On judging the quality of a university
“Some people judge a university by the magnitude of national institute of health, the national science foundation grants. Other people judge a university by the average salary of the faculty. I like to judge a university by the quality of its graduates.”
From his inaugural address, April 21, 1991

On the importance of teaching ethics
“You can’t tell people what to think. That’s their free pursuit. But, you can make them aware of how people go about resolving these issues, and you can help them become more aware of their own moral convictions in the process. It seems to me that there is no one more dangerous for our American society, for our nation, than a very bright, very well-educated person without moral convictions. There is no one more dangerous. The brighter the person, the better educated, if they’re without moral convictions I believe the more dangerous they are. We need people with moral convictions. They know where they stand. Part of our Xavier education is that people become more grounded in their moral convictions, become aware of themselves, where they stand and they become aware of the issues facing us in society.”
From a corporate luncheon speech, March 11, 1994

On the importance of teaching spirituality
“I would feel that our students are cheated if they leave here and did not have a chance to reflect on their own relationship with God and to deepen that relationship. My really deep conviction about that comes from a half a dozen years of working with people who were dying of life-threatening illnesses, cancer patients and heart patients. While I was teaching about ethical issues and health care, I spent the last two hours of every day over in the hospital, in the oncology unit and the coronary-care unit, listening to and dealing with people who were dying of life-threatening illness and their family members. And those people are great teachers, because they don’t have much time left. They know what’s important. And I could see that if their horizon of interest was very broad during their life, as they were dying it narrowed and they were all interested in just three things…I never heard a dying man or woman talk about their career. But they talked about their loved ones, their family members, their God. And they talked about their bodies. Having had this deep experience of listening to this with people who were dying convinced me even more of the importance of urging young people at this point in their lives to reflect on their relationships with their God and to reflect on his revelation on who he says he is and what he says our life should be like.”
From a corporate luncheon speech, March 11, 1994