My jaw dropped. I felt the blood rush to my face. Harry Hoffner, the renowned Hittitologist? "Are you telling me that man scanning on the second floor is Harry Hoffner?" There I had sat at my desk, scarcely 20 feet from the copy machine where Dr. Hoffner collected sources for his research and writing. Could it be that I had even cited him in my papers without realizing he was standing at his post right around the corner? How embarrassing! This was no Mad Scanner. He was a professor emeritus, a giant among peers.
Now that I knew what he looked like, I saw him often in the library. I began to say hello. Because of the lecture, he now recognized me, too. Dr. Hoffner was the consummate researcher. Several times a week he combed the shelves for sources to undergird his research. He was, I found out, producing a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel for the Lexham Bible Commentary series online. No wonder he needed so many books. He became a fixture in the Wheaton College library (which was closer to his home than the University of Chicago library).
|Dr. Harry Hoffner and Dr. Daniel Block (October 2012),|
with Dr. Alan Millard,, my Doktorgroßvater, to the right
His knowledge of Hittite language and culture was so encyclopedic that you could catch him in the library stacks and ask him a question and he could quickly scan through everything in his mental "files" and give an accurate answer. He was also kind and conscientious enough to double check his personal library when he arrived home and email the results. He came through for me just last month when I needed an article he wrote for a conference paper I was writing (and quick!). Harry Hoffner to the rescue!
Dr. Block tells me that he once heard Dr. Hoffner give advice to young scholars at a conference, saying, "Be good at what you do, and be good." Dr. Hoffner certainly was both. He was a master in his field as well as a model of virtue.
It wasn't all work. In December I sent Dr. Hoffner a link to this hilarious parody just for fun because it reminded me of him more than anyone else I know (you really must watch it). And he wrote me to see if we were watching the Oregon Ducks play. He told me of his current projects, an article honoring a deceased French Hittitologist, a dissertation examination for a student at Trinity, a paper for a colloquium. He also continued to serve as Senior Editor for the Chicago Hittite Dictionary project — a project he began in the 70's.
|Harry A Hoffner|
November 27, 1934—March 10, 2015
Photo: Carmen Imes
Dr. Hoffner, I'll miss you. I'm so glad our journeys intersected in this life. Save me a spot in the heavenly choir!