Cathedral Prep prides itself in instilling excellence in all of its students and alumni. Any discussion of the excellent alumni that have passed through the hallowed halls of Prep is not nearly complete without including Mr. Thomas C. Hoffman, Sr.
Mr. Hoffman graduated from Cathedral Prep with 110 other fine men in the Class of 1947. He decided to enroll at Prep his freshman year after hearing of the extensive education Prep provided its students from his uncle, Joseph Schaaf, Sr. (Class of 1927) and priests and nuns at his grade school. Mr. Hoffman can easily recall entering his freshman year attending classes underneath St. Peter’s Cathedral. It was midway through his freshman year when the new, aboveground school was completed and the location of the classes moved.
Attending Prep during World War II, Mr. Hoffman worked at Hall’s Cigar Shop on the corner of 7th and State Street. Due to the wartime rationing, cigarettes were in short supply. However, Mr. Hoffman always made sure to have just enough for his classmates and Fr. Fitzgerald. “As you can imagine, I was a pretty popular kid,” Mr. Hoffman exclaimed.
Mr. Hoffman recalls the Prep rallies and football games as being the best part of his Prep experience. He also greatly enjoyed the scholastic awards ceremonies headed by the bishop. “The rallies in the gym were always fun when the bishop came and gave awards to those with first and second honors,” he explained, “though I never made them.”
After graduating from Prep, Mr. Hoffman attended Gannon University where he received a degree in Business Administration in 1951. It was during his time at Gannon that Mr. Hoffman decided to enlist in the United States Naval Reserve. Shortly after graduating from Gannon, Mr. Hoffman was called into active duty in the Navy during the Korean War. During the War, Mr. Hoffman worked for the National Security Administration in Washington, D.C. as a communications technician and was assigned to record and process enemy radio transmissions.
After concluding his naval service in 1953, Mr. Hoffman resumed his job as executive director of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Pennsylvania. In 1956, Mr. Hoffman accepted a new position at the recently created Erie Redevelopment Authority where he became the first executive director, with J. Robert Baldwin as the Authority’s first chairman. Mr. Hoffman worked at the Redevelopment Authority until 1969 when he became the first executive director of the Erie Conference on Community Development (ECCD) where he worked until his retirement in 1992.
Mr. Hoffman explained, “The ECCD included all of the CEOs of major businesses in Erie. I worked there until I retired in 1992.” He continued, “We were a large power structure that could promote mainly transportation objectives such as the Bayfront Parkway, Eastside Connector, the development of the Erie Water Authority, and other projects we sponsored. We worked with the business and political community to develop these important projects with local business leaders such as Frank Zurn of Zurn Industries, Al Duval of Hammermill Paper and many others. Most local bank officials and CEOs were members.”
Today, while commuting to and from Prep, many students from West Erie County drive past Thomas C. Hoffman Bayfront Hub on the corner of West 12th Street and Lincoln Avenue. The hub was named in Mr. Hoffman’s honor for his contributions to the Erie community as head of the ECCD. However, Mr. Hoffman states it is really a testament to the many achievements of the entire organization.
Despite considering himself retired, Mr. Hoffman is still very active in the Erie community. Mr. Hoffman remains chairman of the Erie Metropolitan Planning Organization, which mainly focuses on developing transportation projects as well as collaborating with PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration in the Erie Region.
Mr. Hoffman currently lives in Cambridge Springs, Pa., with his wife and Villa graduate, Gerry. When asked what he loves most about his retirement, Mr. Hoffman replied, “I love my country landscape and my garden, and entertaining people who come to hunt on my property and visit, and my cocktails. And I love spending time with my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and my wife who takes care of me.”
Mr. Hoffman and the rest of his Prep classmates from 1947 still get together every first Wednesday of the month for a regular luncheon. Mr. Hoffman explained, “I graduated with 111 in my class, including eight priests. Now there are less than 30 of us left and Msgr. Ernest Daley is the only priest.”
To the Prep students of today, Mr. Hoffman had this advice to offer: “Study hard, concentrate on academics and set high goals for your career and achieve them.”