Frederick H. Hofmann
Born in Monterey County, raised in Santa Barbara, a San Marcos High School alum and UCSB grad with B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science, Fred Hofmann died in early November of cardiac failure.
Fred Hofmann chose to live his life simply and selflessly. For over 50 years he bicycled from his sparsely furnished Isla Vista apartment to teach classes; first, to SBCC as a political science adjunct professor and, over time, as a current events discussion leader at outreach sites through the college’s School of Extended Learning. Fred’s low carbon footprint fit snugly into his uncluttered lifestyle.
As a teacher, Fred was a self-described “contrarian” who often took the least popular side of an issue. His goal: for students to reexamine and rethink their views, especially those positions they took for granted — to “get out of their comfort zone” as he put it. Civil discourse was a priority. Getting students to appreciate a diversity of viewpoints was a critical task. To many, his courses were, in effect, a training or reaffirming ground in critical thinking, a kind of baptism into the world of politics seen through the mind of a quality thinker.
In recent years, Fred created original movie classes out of his enthusiasm for and detailed knowledge of “film noir” and other vintage works. During the COVID closures he put these Extended Learning classes online for his devoted film attendees.
For nearly three decades Fred was also a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of local newspapers, penning insightful and well-written essays on an array of topics including immigration in America, global warming, political election cycles, reinventing history, presidential spoilers, American baseball and much, much more.
As a person, Fred Hofmann was a uniter: bringing people together, urging them to connect with their past, reminding them that they aren’t alone, gently nudging them out of their self-isolation and sometimes even loneliness.
Each Valentine’s Day Fred’s many female friends, young and old, received cards from “a secret admirer” whose handwriting was unmistakably Fred’s. Recently, he funded and presided over a “Bingo Bash” in memory of his late mother at the Friendship Manor retirement home in Isla Vista –an annual gala event replete with a large birthday carrot cake and cash awards.
Working with the Madrid, Iowa, Historical Society, Fred was instrumental in funding a memorial kiosk and museum displays honoring the immigrant miner families of nearby Boxtown, part of Madrid’s coal producing history. Boxtown had been the childhood home of his Italian mother Josephine Pagliai Hofmann. Recollections of her early years were published in the local paper.
Fred was also a founding member of the SBCC Legacy Project aimed at preserving SBCC’s history through” first person narratives”and helped underwrite events at the college honoring founding business and accounting professors John O’Dea and Merle Taylor and political science professor Dr. Robert Casier.
Master of the small gift (those Valentines, lottery scratchers, mugs emblazoned with the name of your hometown), Fred reveled in sports, film and comic book trivia. Who threw the ball when Willie Mays hit his first home run? Fred knew. What distinguished the Disney characters Pluto and Goofy? Fred could. How many readers can recall the origins of the name “Notary Sojac”? Fred could. What was Flash Gordons real name? Ask Fred.
So much was done by such an unassuming person in a cut-short lifetime. Quietly and consistently, Fred Hofmann made our community a better place for having participated in it. He will be missed.