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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
July 29, 2020

Katherine Hoffman, 'Eternal' Florida State Figure, Dies at 105

After serving as dean of women at Florida State University in the late 1960s, Katherine B. Hoffman said that her biggest accomplishment had been abolishing her own position.

Bringing female students under the same administrators as men belonged to a larger agenda: creating greater gender equity at the school. As dean, Ms. Hoffman also eased the dress code for women and abolished their curfew.

“They had to wear essentially what were like trench coats,” Norris Hoffman, Ms. Hoffman’s son, recalled. “F.S.U. still thought that the cars in which women were riding would turn into pumpkins at midnight.”

Ms. Hoffman, who spent 88 years connected to the university, died on July 18 at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. She was 105. Her son said the cause was Covid-19.

...Katherine, known as Kitty, arrived at Florida State College for Women, which later became F.S.U., in 1932. It was the Depression, and her father paid part of her tuition with bundles of oranges.

She hoped to earn a medical degree from Duke University, but declined to attend on principle after she learned the school ordered female students to sign a pledge not to marry during their studies. Instead, she obtained a master’s in chemistry from Columbia University in 1938 and married her high school sweetheart, Harold Hoffman, who also became a chemist and was Florida’s assistant commissioner of agriculture.

...Well into her 90s, Ms. Hoffman was known to tootle around in a pink Cadillac driven by a fellow nonagenarian. While her son fished for largemouth bass in the Wakulla River, Ms. Hoffman rowed their boat. She hauled gallon jugs of water for the pine trees they had planted.

... Norris Hoffman also became a chemistry professor, teaching at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. He retired in 2013. During Mr. Hoffman’s boyhood, he and his mother planted seedlings on the family tree farm. “We would talk about the elements, their names and their properties in the periodic table,” he said. “She was brainwashing me for chemistry.”


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