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Published: Friday, 3/24/2006

English professor ran honors program at UT

David Hoch, who directed the honors program at the University of Toledo for 13 years and earlier was chairman of its English department, died of cancer Tuesday in his Sylvania home. He was 65.

He was diagnosed with cancer six years ago but was driven to keep working until last summer, his wife, Julia, said.

"He was absolutely in love with his job, and it was so hard for him to quit that when his health went downhill," she said.

Mr. Hoch taught and advised hundreds of students in his 36 years at the university, where he had been a faculty member since 1969. He sometimes advised 60 students a term.

In those one-on-one advising sessions, which often lasted more than an hour, he typically urged students to apply for internships, to study abroad, or present papers at research conferences.

"I think the thing that was behind his teaching was that life offered wonderful opportunities," said Jim Larson, a professor emeritus at UT who was its honors director before Mr. Hoch. "As a result, these students have done remarkable things with their lives."

Mr. Hoch's teaching style was heavy on discussion, and he rearranged his classroom furniture in attempts to better facilitate talking with his students instead of to them, his wife said.

He prepared for class by scribbling questions and notes in books rather than by writing a lecture. He enjoyed helping students write, and had individual conferences with them to go over rough drafts of their work.

He was named one of UT's outstanding teachers in 1979.

Mr. Hoch grew up in Canonsburg, Pa., south of Pittsburgh, and as a teenager worked in his father's business delivering meat and blocks of ice. He played football and was president of his class of 1958 at Canonsburg High School.

He graduated with high honors from Washington and Jefferson College, which at the time was a small men's college south of Pittsburgh, in the spring of 1962. From there he went to the University of Florida where he received his master's degree in English the following year.

During the time he was working on his master's degree, he married his wife, whom he had met at church when he was in college and she was in high school in Pennsylvania. He had a full scholarship from Florida to study for his doctorate, but decided instead to teach at Maryville College in Tennessee to make sure he liked teaching, his wife said.

He taught mostly freshman English at the small liberal arts school - and loved it. After 2 1/2 years, he returned to his own studies at Kent State University, where he got an assistantship and received his doctorate.

His dissertation was on Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet, and philosopher who Mr. Hoch resembled in many ways, his friend Mr. Larson said. For years, Mr. Hoch took his Thoreau books and notebooks with him on every trip to study.

Mr. Hoch loved the outdoors and ran daily for years. Before he suffered knee problems, he usually ran 10 miles a day. Sometimes on a weekend he would run 20 miles a day. He loved having students run with him so they could have a conference while they ran.

He was a charter member of Wildwood Athletic Club.

He enjoyed music and sold tickets to Toledo Symphony concerts to his students, and at concerts he would greet all of his students there. When his students' parents came to town, he often took them to the Toledo Museum of Art.

He connected with young children as well as college students and kept toys for young visitors at home and in his office.

"Little kids, big kids, and Thoreau" were the loves of his life, his wife said.

Surviving are his wife, Julia; son, John, and a granddaughter.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. April 2 in First Unitarian Church. The Reeb Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to the David Hoch Honors Scholarship Fund at the University of Toledo Foundation.



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