A comedic intellect

As a serious man who knew a lot about the world, Ted Hoffman was always able to see the lighter side of life. It was something he did as an instructor, a composer and a scholar. Hoffman, former professor for humanities and American studies, died Jan. 2. He was 77.

As a faculty member from 1962 to 1991, Hoffman inspired colleagues and students to approach topics from a different angle. Bryan Shuler, professor of humanities and American studies, said he remembers sitting in class when Hoffman took breaks from his lecture about the Japanese culture to talk about life.

“He loved to look at the irony of a topic in life and get you to look at anything in a different way,” Shuler said. “That always impressed me.”

Hoffman’s music has been performed throughout the nation and the world. He received many Fulbright and National Endowment awards for the humanities , as well as Japan Foundation Fellowships.

Shuler said Hoffman passed away because of complications with cancer, but he will always remember him by his intelligence and humor, which inspired Shuler to become a professor.

Shuler said Hoffman took his work seriously. Hoffman traveled to Japan to collect studies about the culture. His was a favorite, Shuler said, in the humanities department, and composing came naturally for someone who was also a professor in the music department.

“He gave great detail in his work and had an obvious tone that he loved his work,” Shuler said. “And he shared it with everyone.”

Hoffman collected Japanese music, which he later donated to the music department and the Library. Besides being a man who could find humor in almost any subject, Shuler said Hoffman was also a serious man.

“He inspired me with his honesty with me as a student, which I like to pass on to other students,” Shuler said.

Hoffman critiqued Shuler’s graduate thesis, which taught him teaching methods he now uses with his students.

Silvio Gaggi, professor of humanities and American Studies, said beyond the classroom, Hoffman loved football, Clint Eastwood movies and golf. Gaggi, who was Hoffman’s colleague, added that he was also a man of comedy.

“He knew more jokes than anyone I ever met,” Gaggi said. “(His jokes) were intelligent, perceptive and alternately hilarious and sad, and they added a lot to my life.”

Gaggi said Hoffman allowed him to see life in another perspective and not be so serious about every detail.

Dan Rutenberg, a former USF professor, said Hoffman hired him in the humanities department. Rutenberg said they often played cards together.

“When he played bridge, he was competitive, but he was so funny. You couldn’t always take the game too seriously,” Rutenberg said. “He enjoyed a lot of things besides his profession, he enjoyed life.”