Gift from Kitty Hoffman Creates Lectureship in Environmental Chemistry
Article courtesy of the Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences
Kitty Hoffman, a former Florida State University faculty member and dean—not to mention a standout student leader when the university was named the Florida State College for Women—is still making good things happen at the university she has long loved.
Thanks to a gift to the Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, where she taught for decades, the university brought internationally renowned chemist Joseph J. Bozell to campus Friday, April 13, 2012, for the first-ever Katherine B. Hoffman Endowed Lecture in Environmental Chemistry.
“Dr. Bozell is an ideal choice for this first Hoffman lecture,” said Professor Bill Cooper, associate chair of the department. “He was trained as a classical synthetic organic chemist and has devoted his professional career to developing technologies for converting renewable, biomass-based materials into value-added products.”
Bozell is an internationally recognized expert on renewables for chemical production and in 1999 was a co-recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award.
Cooper noted that the lecture, “Biomass Conversion for Renewable Resources of Energy and Feedstocks,” was designed to appeal not only to chemists but to anyone interested in understanding how chemistry will play a role in shaping a sustainable environmental future through green manufacturing processes.
The colloquium is scheduled to commemorate Earth Day annually. Hoffman was on-hand for the inaugural lecture. Her $50,000 gift established the lecture, with a focus on environmental, sustainable or “green” chemistry.
“We are very grateful for Professor Hoffman’s gift and think it provides an excellent opportunity for our students to rub elbows with someone in such a vital area of chemistry,” said Timothy Logan, professor and chair of the department. Joe Schlenoff, former chair of the department and the Mandelkern Professor of Polymer Science, worked with Hoffman several months ago to determine the focus of the colloquium.
“Chemistry now plays a critical role in planning for a sustainable environmental future through activities such as the development of ‘green’ manufacturing processes and is the central science responsible for monitoring our water, air and soil,” Schlenoff said.
This is not Hoffman’s first financial gift to the department. She and her late husband, Harold, created the Katherine Blood Hoffman Endowed Fund in Chemistry in 1994 with a gift of more than $115,000 for student support. At that time, Hoffman said, “FSU has been the foundation on which my life is built. How could I not [give] when I had received so much? I had received assistance, and I wanted to help today’s undergraduates in return.”
In addition, Hoffman has made dozens of other gifts to Arts and Sciences, including a $50,000 gift in 1998 for symposia for the liberal arts and a $32,000 gift in 1987 to establish an endowed chair in psychology.
Hoffman graduated from the Florida State College for Women in 1936—the height of the Depression—after famously bartering three truckloads of oranges from her father’s grove for a year’s worth of room and board, which cost $200. At FSCW, Hoffman was a straight-A student, president of student government, and captain of at least two sports teams. In addition, she wrote for the campus newspaper, worked in the dining hall, and was one of the earliest members of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society in Florida.
After graduating from FSCW, Hoffman earned her master’s degree in chemistry in 1938 from Columbia University and was accepted into medical school at Duke University. Unfortunately, Duke required its female medical students to stay single, so Hoffman decided Duke was not for her. Instead, she married her high school sweetheart and fellow chemist, Harold Hoffman, and in 1940 joined the chemistry faculty at FSCW.
With energy and drive like that of a marathon runner, Hoffman served on the faculty throughout the World War II era; through FSCW’s transition to a co-ed university; through the years when male recipients of the GI Bill flooded the university’s science classes; through the tumultuous years of the 1960s and ’70s, during which she also served as the university’s dean of women from 1967 to 1970; and into the early 1980s, when she served as president of the Faculty Senate from 1980 to 1982.
Over the course of her career, Hoffman authored many publications, including a book, Chemistry of Life, which received a favorable review from The New York Times in 1964. And in what is perhaps her most enduring legacy, she taught thousands of students and received multiple teaching awards. To mark that legacy, in 1984, the year she retired, the chemistry department dedicated the Katherine B. Hoffman Teaching Laboratory in her honor. And in 2007, the university awarded her an honorary doctorate.
“Hoffman was a great role model and mentor for women joining the faculty and for her chemistry students,” said chemistry Professor Emerita Penny J. Gilmer, who joined the FSU faculty in 1979. “She inspired faculty and students alike with her love of chemistry and her ways of working with others.”