Being a dentist is in the blood of Walter Hofman ’54 of Glenview, Ill. His father was a dentist in Chicago’s southside Hyde Park neighborhood.
“It’s always been my ambition because of my family,” Hofman says. “Everybody else in my family is a doctor, and they decided I should be the dentist. I love it. I give of myself to someone every day. Many executives and successful people donate their time to some charity or church or whatever. In this profession, you donate yourself to your patients. At least I do.”
Hofman loves his profession so much that even at the age of 81, he still works about a day-and-a-half a week as an independent contractor in a dental office and covers the emergency room for dental emergencies seven days a month at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates.
Hofman chose to come to Ripon College because of its smaller size. “My military high school was small, and if I had gone to a bigger school for college it would have been more challenging,” he says.
“I found my own college. I was thinking about West Point, but I was too short and wore glasses. I applied to a number of schools — Oberlin, Kenyon, Beloit, Knox, Lawrence and Ripon. They all wanted me to play football for them. But I knew my limitations. There was no future for me playing football.”
He did, however, wrestle for Ripon College. He majored in biology and minored in German and chemistry. He also took full advantage of all the opportunities the College’s smaller campus offered. He served as the all-school social chairman, and any party plans or social gatherings went through him. “I would go to the dean and schedule things that were going to happen,” he says. “I knew everybody at the College.”
He sang in the choir, participated in the student-produced and directed Ver Adest musicals, played intramural sports, graduated as a lieutenant in the infantry through ROTC and taught German to fellow students. He also helped found the Sigma Chi chapter at Ripon the year it went national in 1954.
He graduated from Marquette University Dental School in Milwaukee in 1959 and then went into the Army for two years, where he was stationed outside of Nurenberg in Germany.
“I was a senior captain in the Army and chief of a medical facility,” he says. “I spoke German fluently, so I was the interpreter for the head of the post. I had an honorable discharge, came back to Illinois and found a small practice in a little town of Streamwood, Ill.”
He bought a three-bedroom house and practiced out of that house for 20 years. Then, he moved his practice to St. Alexius Hospital where he still is on staff.
In addition to his hospital work, he now also works as an independent contractor for a different dental office and has kept his staff from his former practice. “My hygienist has been with me for 34 years,” Hofman says. “I hired her when she was 20, and she has been with me ever since.
“It’s a happy situation for me. I enjoy it so much, and I have a responsibility to all these people who came with me from my practice. It has been a love affair between me and my patients for the last 30 to 40 years. Some have never been to another dentist in their lives.”
Hofman and his wife, Ellen, have been married for 51 years. They have two daughters: Lisa, who teaches school in Burlington, Vt., and Susan, who works at Neiman Marcus and lives in Buffalo Grove, Ill.
“I’ll keep working until my health is such that I can’t,” says Hofman.
To read more stories of Ripon College alumni, click HERE.