By Laurie Laker ’12
From war zones to the Mountain West, Colorado College Professor Emeritus of History William “Bill” Hochman has 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 has 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.
Curiously, 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 has come to call home ever since. Joining the history faculty, Hochman’s career at the college spanned more than five decades of teaching, scholarship, and groundbreaking innovation.
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 a true titan of the Colorado College, Lloyd E. Worner ’42, the popular history professor and later dean and president of the college from 1964-86.
Making the class his own, 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. It stands as testament to the forward-thinking spirit of the college as a whole, never shying away from a challenge.
Prolific both inside and outside the classroom, 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. 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 is particularly proud of having been instrumental in making intramural sports much more inclusive to all members of the campus community.
Hochman was chairman 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 precious cultural tradition we have inherited. He also taught six summers for the University of California at Berkeley.
For decades, peace has been Hochman’s passion. At CC, he taught general studies courses on how people experienced war and on the morality of warmaking. 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 returns 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. Hochman continues to be a vital component of the college’s past, present, and future. We are honored, and thrilled, to celebrate him here.
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