Emil T. Hofman

Hofman, McBride Exemplify Dedication at Notre Dame

July 24, 2015

The University of Notre Dame paid its final respects Monday morning to two individuals–one a familiar name on campus and the other a behind-the-scenes contributor–with a combined University association of more than a century.

Former professor Emil T. Hofman taught freshman chemistry for four decades and spent 64 years overall at Notre Dame. His legendary Friday quizzes arguably impacted the Thursday night student social scene as much as anything else on campus. Hofman also played a major role in Notre Dame’s coeducation process, serving as dean of the Freshman Year of Studies (now known as First Year of Studies) in the 1970s when women first enrolled at the University. He also convinced the Notre Dame administration that first-year students should take a broad-based curriculum, then select a college by their sophomore year and a major by their junior year.

In the process Hofman developed longstanding relationships with many of those female freshmen, among them current Notre Dame senior deputy athletics director Missy Conboy who recalls having dinner at the Hofman home with her Irish women’s basketball teammates. Once he retired Hofman spent hours holding court at his new “office,” a bench just southeast of the steps to the Main Building. The Notre Dame Monogram Club presented him with an honorary monogram in 2003, and at that time Conboy included an athletics parka to keep him comfortable during those “office hours.” When Hofman’s health took a downward turn, his continuing interest in Irish football fortunes prompted him to call Conboy to determine if accommodations in the press box might be available for him to view the games. They were–and Hofman became a press box regular, even calling this spring to ensure he would still be welcome for the 2015 season.

Brother Charles McBride, C.S.C., may not be a name you recognize, yet he may well have photographed as many Notre Dame student-athletes as anyone in the last 40 years. When I began working in the Notre Dame sports information office in 1978, our photo files didn’t qualify as voluminous. But I quickly came to depend on the drawer in the backroom filing cabinet that contained dozens of manila folders, organized by year and Irish sports event and each containing an identical #10 envelope filled with strips of black and white negatives. We would pore over Brother Charles’ sheets of miniature positives with a magnifier, searching for just the right shot of Joe Montana, Bob Golic or Vagas Ferguson for a game program or media guide.

After beginning his Notre Dame athletics photography in 1975, Brother Charles moved to a new assignment in 1980 as director of communications for the archdiocese in Anchorage, Alaska, before returning to the Midwest Province at Notre Dame in 2004. He generally would find his way back from Alaska to at least one Irish home football game each fall, often bringing a supply of fresh salmon with him. He shot dozens of Irish sporting events, did it with a smile, provided his images promptly and never asked for a dime. He made his way on his own to more than his share of road games and away-from-home events.

Like Hofman, Brother Charles found himself restricted by his health of late, including multiple open-heart procedures. Yet, he, too, had called in recent weeks to see if he might watch a football game or two in 2015 from the media area–and he wanted to make sure the athletics communication archives received the last of his CDs of Notre Dame sports images.

Hofman died July 11 at age 94. McBride passed away July 14 at age 76.

Emil and Brother Charles will be watching that 2015 football season from a new vantage point. Their interest in Notre Dame, and its athletic scene, will be missed. May they both rest–and presumably root–in peace.

— by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director