Reflections by Xavier faculty and staff

Reflections by Xavier faculty, staff and administrators | July 27, 2004

“Last spring, the real Musketeer arrived in Atlanta. While the Tri-state focused upon the resilient courage of Chalmers, Sato and Myles, as the team kept stunning the experts, a deeper drama played out. Fr. James Hoff, the University chancellor and former president, and the team’s No. 1 fan, quietly left Cincinnati to be with his men. Only hours before an announcement had electrified the campus: ‘Jim Hoff has cancer. Inoperable. With only months to live.’ During the decade of Jim’s presidency, the University made enormous educational strides. Jim and I butted heads at times over faculty benefits, a constitution, and theology. But we always left one another with respect and genuine affection. Jim, as the players say, ‘left it all on the floor’ for Xavier. And now with his courageous passing, he taught his last and most profound lesson. Words I wrote at his retirement take on a sudden poignancy."

He leaves us well, but with work unfinished;
unwilling to accept the true and tried,
he leaves us at the threshold wanting more:
more than stone and steel, or bricks and mortar,
for Xavier is a moving vision,
a laboratory of blood and bone,
where freedom is more than academic,
where things get personal, from one-eyed Duke
to Conaton, boardroom to sentry box,
where malls and mathematics finely mix.
He’s provided for a firm foundation,
left a launching pad for education.
For he understood well how students thrive
through worldwide ideals, passionate, alive.

—Art Dewey

“The first time I met Fr. Hoff he was walking around the old University Center and saw Players holding an awards ceremony. He was dressed casually in a sweater and slacks, just having a look around. He introduced himself, and we asked him to join us—he did. He was so kind and so interested in everything. I liked him immediately. When we were doing the musical ‘Nunsense,’ I wanted to invite him to the show, so I dressed up in a habit and paid him a visit. He very kindly greeted me as ‘Sister Catherine.’ I remember that big laugh when I took off the veil finally. I remember building the theater and Fr. Hoff asking Pat Sheridan and I if we really needed the fly space. We gave him our best plea and just like that, the million-dollar addition was made. I am forever grateful to him for creating a true theater in the Gallagher Center and not a lecture auditorium. Not only do our students benefit, but it has become a favorite performance space for many semi-professional theaters and dance groups in the community bringing many people together at Xavier. The last time I saw Fr. Hoff we were standing in the theater together and lovingly recalling the decision to make the place a real, working theater. I know I will always be grateful to him for his intelligence, his warmth and his passion for students and their needs. He was a truly great man. There will always be an open seat for him in the theater—his theater.” —Cathy Springfield

“My favorite memory of Fr. Hoff was down in Atlanta during our run in the Elite 8. He already knew how sick he was, but carried on with such courage and strength. He was especially focusing on the children in the crowd making sure they were part of the celebration and were given some of the attention that was being directed to the success of the basketball team." —Tom Hayes

"Fr. Hoff started very soon after I started, and I feel like we’ve been here the same length of time. I think Fr. Hoff was a wonderful steward of the University. He brought the University to a whole new level. He was always very kind to me. He dressed up as Santa Claus at a Christmas party and no one knew it was him. We got in line and all got to sit in his lap. He asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I told him I’d like some new programmers. He just laughed. It was so out of character for him and so much fun. That was pretty sporty of him. He was really a terrific president because he ran the University well and took the whole look of the University to another level.”
—Dorinda Giles

“Fr. Hoff was the most charming man. His warm comments at our Christmas luncheons on campus always made you feel special. His sense of humor was appreciated. ‘Thank you Father, for making Xavier what it is today.’ Your presence and smile will be missed.” —Kathleen Voyles

"People talked first about his ability to relate to people on all levels including students and people of great wealth, the Jewish community, the African-American community. He was a champion for all and was a remarkable man in that aspect. He was incredibly competitive. He didn’t like to lose at anything. That’s one of the ways he changed the face of the University. It was because of his competitiveness and level of expectation, which was just way up there. He just woke this place up. He had the same expectations for himself as anyone who worked for him. He just drove people. He had the unique charm and charisma to drive people in the same way he drove himself. He had just huge expectations for people. He had an unbelievable quality of leadership. People have told me that he was very difficult to say no to. That’s true of myself. When he came to recruit me to work here it was difficult to say no. The result of that was that he built up a board that’s made up of a group of quality people that through his leadership decided to make things happen." —Gary Massa

"James E. Hoff, S. J., was a great leader for Xavier University. From the start, as President, he had a compelling vision for a better Xavier. He challenged the status quo and raised the collective self-esteem of the Xavier Family. He knew with absolute certainty that we could and should demand more of ourselves. Through his passion and clarity, he got others to believe in and support his grand vision with their time, talent and treasure. During his term, the donations poured in and the endowment grew. New buildings and dormitories sprouted up. The campus was transformed andbeautified.  Xavier shed its old commuter college skin. The alumni association jumped from a local to a national organization, now 50 chapters strong.  The academics were vastly upgraded and continue to be nationally recognized. Better and more diverse students were attracted to Xavier. The athletic programs became elite, both in terms of academic and competitive performance. He successfully mentored and prepared his successor, Fr. Mike Graham. Now, this exceptional leader lives on in the heightened pride and eternal gratitude of the Xavier Family. His legacy is secure. Rest well, our beloved leader." —Daniel Murphy