College of Arts and Architecture mourns passing of art educator Harlan Hoffa

World War II veteran Harlan “Rip” Hoffa, professor emeritus of art education and former associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Arts and Architecture, died on Monday, May 1. He was 91.

Hoffa received his doctorate in art education from Penn State in 1959, after earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Wayne State University. He taught at Boston University and Indiana University before returning to Penn State in 1970 to become head of the Art Education program. He later served as acting director of the Penn State School of Visual Arts. In 1985, he was appointed associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Arts and Architecture, a position he held until his retirement in 1990.

Hoffa served as president of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) in 1971–73. He spent a Fulbright year in Helsinki, Finland, studying schools of design. In 2014, he was honored with a College of Arts and Architecture Alumni Award.

A survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, Hoffa was held as a prisoner of war three different times during his service in the Army. “He was very modest [about his service],” said his brother, Bill. “That was just his character. He did what he could.”

Hoffa and his late wife, Suzanne Dudley Hoffa, established a doctoral dissertation award for Penn State art education students.

“Harlan Hoffa was an important person in the history of art education in the United States and in the development of the field,” said B. Stephen Carpenter II, Penn State professor of art education and African American studies. “He is also an important part of the history of our Art Education program at Penn State. He will be missed.”

According to Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, Hoffa was the type of person who often brightened her day when he visited campus. “Just last month, we had a chance to visit in his home. We discussed some of the speeches he made on the value of interdisciplinary arts when he was active nationally and in on the ground floor of the formation of important arts organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts,” she said. “He was a force to be reckoned with, whether it was surviving as a prisoner of war or promoting the arts on the national front. I'm grateful for the legacy he has created during his long influence at Penn State.” 

Last Updated May 10, 2017