“I taught for 54 years at Colorado College. It was my privilege to do that. I miss it very much.”– Bill Hochman on his career at Colorado College
A vital member of the CC community for over six decades, Colorado College Professor Emeritus of History William “Bill” Hochman passed away on March 23, 2019, at 97.
From war zones to the Mountain West, Hochman lived an incredibly full, fruitful, and generous life. His classes, specifically the legendary Freedom and Authority class, helped form the backbone of CC’s liberal arts education as the college grew and developed over the latter half of the last century.
A junior officer in the United States Navy during WWII, Hochman served in the North African campaign, as well as in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and Normandy. When his ship was torpedoed and sunk off the Normandy coast, Hochman was rescued by the British destroyer HMS Beagle. Following his experiences in the war, he devoted much of his life toward the cause of peace.
“When I came home, I was determined to do something useful with my life, perhaps to atone for the fact that I survived while so many of my shipmates perished,” he reflected in the December 2012 issue of the Colorado College Bulletin. Returning home from the war, he decided to be a teacher. Hochman earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in American history from Columbia University, having earned his bachelor’s before the war from that same institution.
Hochman’s career in education didn’t actually begin at CC. Initially, he taught and worked as an assistant administrator for the University of Colorado Extension Center, now UCCS, in Colorado Springs. In 1955, he found his way to Colorado College, the place that he came to call home. Joining the history faculty, Hochman’s teaching career at the college spanned more than five decades.
Freedom and Authority, the class that would perhaps best define Hochman’s teaching legacy at Colorado College, was first launched in 1951 as the college’s first-ever interdisciplinary class. Never shy of a challenge, Hochman took the reins from Lloyd E. Worner ’42, the popular history professor and later dean and president of the college from 1964-86.
Hochman pushed his students to tackle the key issues of any time; the balances and battles between individual freedom and religious, social, and political authority. Tackling these topics, at the time of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, was then a rather controversial thing for Hochman and his students to have done.
Hochman attended four Democratic National Conventions, the first as an alternate delegate for Adlai Stevenson in 1960. He was on the Platform Committee at the Democratic National Convention of 1964, and on the Credentials Committee at the tumultuous Chicago Convention of 1968. In 1964, he was named chair of the college’s Education Department and, with the strong support of President Worner, inaugurated a teacher training program uniquely appropriate for a liberal arts college.
“It was no longer experimental. We had it. And as I say again and again, it’s the thing we do.” – Bill Hochman, on CC’s groundbreaking Block Plan
Faculty-student relationships were at the heart of Hochman’s teaching, even spilling over onto the softball diamond of the college’s intramural scene — on which his talent as a pitcher was quickly recognized, and soon feared. He was particularly proud of having been instrumental in making intramural sports much more inclusive to all members of the campus community.
Hochman was chair of the History Department for many years, and served a term as dean of Summer Session. His primary concern was always to strengthen the college’s commitment to the liberal arts, transmitting to students the experience, wisdom, and values of the tradition. He also taught six summers for the University of California at Berkeley.
For decades, peace was Hochman’s passion. At CC, he taught general studies courses on how people experienced war and on the morality of war-making. He made and gave away handmade wire peace pins during both the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. At Honors Convocation each year, he awarded a prize for the best student work on the human experience of war. Hochman’s life as an activist and advocate is equal to his life as an educator — perhaps the highest commendation that could be given of his work.
In 1995, after 40 years of teaching, Hochman was awarded the first-ever Gresham Riley Award for his years of continuous service, commitment, and accomplishment to the college community. Retiring in 1998, Hochman left a rarified legacy of institutional impact and cross-disciplinary teaching. He returned to the college regularly, as a visitor in classes, to teach Freedom and Authority for Homecoming and special events, and to provide his significant voice to occasions focused on veterans’ affairs and peace.
A memorial service will be held to honor Hochman’s life and legacy at 3 p.m., Saturday, May 11, in Shove Memorial Chapel, followed by a reception in Gates Common Room in Palmer Hall.
Alumni Remember Bill Hochman
Thomas Andrew Ori ’87
“I am sad. Taking Just and Unjust Wars with him and Eli Boderman was a life-altering experience. Professor Hochman invited and pushed critical thinking like few teachers. Two anecdotes about him I carry with me: 1.) His mantra, ‘I am not a pacifist, but peace is my passion,’ taught me that holding seemingly paradoxical thoughts is OK — even admirable. 2.) His story of being rescued in the North Atlantic after his ship sank — and what he was feeling while bobbing up and down in the seas — gets me choked up every time I remember it or retell it. As he tells the story, while he was waiting his turn to be rescued, he focused on the tagline from a magazine ad he had seen before boarding the troop transport and shipping to Europe. The line: ‘Bear down, Mister, bear down!’”
Robert Alan Reid ’59
“A quick story that says much about the man: Among the many history courses I took with Bill was Recent U.S. History where I wrote a long term paper on the Battle of Leyte Gulf (the largest naval battle in world history). Fifty-five years later Bill came to San Diego to speak to our alumni luncheon. There Bill gave me a New York Times review of a current book on the subject. I marveled that he remembered my interest in the subject and was considerate enough to bring the review. Hundreds of Colorado College students admired him. He was a major force on the campus. His impact remains.”
Dee Bradley Baker ’85
“I’ve a fond memory of Bill and TK Barton reprising the Lincoln/Douglas debates in the early ’80s. His was a warm and caring mind. Grateful to have been around his influence on the CC community.”
Larimore Reid Nicholl ’61
“We have lost a very, very great man. Professor Bill Hochman changed thousands of students’ lives. Some of us tried to imitate him. It was impossible, of course, but the attempt to do it made us better people.”
Mary Lou Porter ’62
“Dr. Hochman was my favorite professor at Colorado College. What a blessing for those around him that he lived to be 97. I attribute my love and fascination of history to him. He was an amazing man and the best of teachers. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Marcia Ray Wythers ’59
“I loved Bill so much and was honored to have a wonderful reunion with him at our 50th class reunion in ’09. He saved me from an ugly incident with a Spanish professor in 1956 and was waiting to see me in 2009. He remembered every detail of that incident, from my tears as an overwhelmed freshman, to all he did to help me through it. He even had me out to his house for dinner the night of that situation to calm me and help me to feel safe. Incredible care from your college advisor. Bill Hochman was one of the finest men ever. Peace and prayers to his family and friends.”
Nancy Myers Roberts ’59
“I am deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Hochman’s death. He was my history professor at CC in the fall of ‘55 when I was a shy college freshman, and he earned my lasting admiration and respect. What a great honor it was to meet him again at our 50th reunion in ’09 and see that he was exactly as I had remembered him — a kind and special man. My sincere sympathy to all his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.”
Theodora Mathilde Saal ’83
“Bill Hochman and I, as kids, went to the same school in NYC, 50 years apart. He always said that was what formed us, and what bonded. I am filled with love and admiration for this wonderful, humanistic, compassionate man. I took more than one class but my fav was one he team taught with wonderful Dan Tynan. I had never seen such intellectual respect, admiration, and mutual excitement as they shared our American story. Goodbye, our Bill.”