Hoffman’s $56M UC gift to create scholarships, support Bearcat athletes

A University of Cincinnati alumnus’ $56 million donation led to the creation of a new scholarship program at three of the school’s colleges. The bequest also aims to support Bearcat student-athletes for generations to come.

The gift came from the estate of the late Hugh Hoffman, who earned his MBA from UC in 1963. In his honor, the endowment will be called the Hoffman Honors Scholars Program. Scholars will consist of undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College-Conservatory of Music and the Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

The first student cohort will be selected before the 2024-2025 academic year.

Hugh Hoffman

Hoffman’s gift is the largest donation to scholarships in UC’s 200-plus-year history. It’s a part of the ongoing Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati campaign, a $2 billion-plus fundraising effort to benefit UC and UC Health.

“This historic investment in our students will change lives long into our future and build a pipeline of graduates with exceptional academic and leadership experience,” UC President Neville G. Pinto, said of Hoffman’s gift.

Hoffman passed away in March. He was 91. The university described his gift as a reflection of his high regard for education, serving the community and travel. As such, the Honors Scholars Program will offer financial support and growth opportunities to exceptional UC students. Awards will go to students based on a combination of merit and need.

Chosen scholars will have the chance to build their global awareness through international experiences, bolster their professional experiences through internships or co-ops and “develop as problem solvers through service projects, lectures and leadership development,” per the university. As part of the program, Hoffman Honors Scholars will also participate in service-learning projects while partnering with local organizations and companies.

“Mr. Hoffman’s extraordinary gift creates educational opportunities for UC students to create a better future for themselves and our communities,” said UC Provost Valerio Ferme. “The Hoffman Honors Scholars Program will allow successful students… to earn a degree and become globally minded leaders that can make a positive impact in our rapidly changing world.”

An aerial photo of the University of Cincinnati campus. (Photo by Casey Weldon)

Beyond the scholars program, the Hugh H. Hoffman Scholarship Fund will provide $14 million in financial support to UC student-athletes. Hoffman told the university of his intentions to support student-athletes in a variety of sports. He placed an emphasis on women’s teams, UC noted in a statement.

Being able to offer financial support to student-athletes is vital, according to John Cunningham, UC’s athletics director. He said in many situations, a scholarship can make the difference between a person deciding to go to college or not.

Cunningham believes this new funding will go a long way toward supporting the university’s athletic programs as it works to recruit top talent and become more competitive in its new conference, the Big 12.

“We are honored and grateful for this unprecedented investment by Mr. Hoffman, which will help ensure that our Bearcats get the holistic support they need to succeed in our classrooms, our new conference and our communities,” Cunningham continued.

 A lifetime of giving

The youngest son of Herbert H. Hoffman and Madeline Rowe, Hoffman was a fourth-generation Cincinnatian. After graduating from Yale University, he returned to his hometown to work and earn his MBA at UC.

After beginning his career at the Howard Paper Company of Dayton, Ohio, Hoffman worked as a broker and investment advisor at W.E. Hutton & Co. and Thomson & McKinnon, after its merger.

While he found success in the business world, Hoffman also took hold of his family’s storied tradition of giving back to the community. He was the nephew of Stanley M. Rowe, Sr., and Dorothy Snowden Rowe, the founders of the Stanley M. Rowe Arboretum. His uncle also founded the Cincinnati Nature Center.

His family’s support of UC spans multiple generations, dating back to Hoffman’s grandparents, Fanny and Casper Rowe. The couple began giving to the university in 1930 and established a scholarship fund in 1954.

A focal point of his giving over the years has been working to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a tribute to his father, who died from ALS, Hoffman supported research and patient care at several organizations.

Hoffman also loved interacting with young high school and college students and supported them by investing in scholarships at both Yale and UC. A passionate sports fan, he had season tickets for several Bearcats teams.

This most recent gift to UC reflects Hoffman’s love for his hometown and its people, according to his nephews, Bert and Steve Bullock. They said their uncle showed that affection through philanthropic gifts, volunteer work and activities.

“I deeply appreciate Mr. Hoffman and his family’s passion for student success,” Pinto said. “His generosity will lift generations of Bearcats.”

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