Topics: Miller College of Business, Scholarships

September 5, 2008

A $1.8 million estate gift will be used to attract and retain top business faculty at Ball State University.

The Robert M. Hoffer Professorship was created by the former Muncie resident and business executive who died in 2002 at age 81 in Whitefish, Wis. In addition to supporting faculty positions at competitive salaries in the accounting and finance departments in the Miller College of Business, the gift allows for excess funds to support student scholarships.

Hoffer, a member of the inaugural class of the Miller College Hall of Fame, provided invaluable support to the university and business programs for more than 50 years, said Rod Davis, the college's interim dean.

"Robert Hoffer was an extraordinary individual who strongly believed in education," Davis said. "It is through the generosity of our alumni that we are able to provide our students with intense and rewarding classroom and immersive learning opportunities under the direction of top-flight faculty."

Hoffer, who was born and raised in Muncie, received his bachelor's degree in business education from Ball State in 1948 and later earned his master's degree in business administration from the University of Michigan.

At the age of 19, Hoffer began his first utility job working as a mail boy for American Electric Power Co. in his hometown and would later become an accounting clerk. He joined the Navy during World War II and was responsible for tracking messages from German submarines and sending them to Washington for decoding. 

Following graduation from Ball State, his first professional job was with the Arthur Andersen accounting firm from 1949 to 1957 in Detroit and Chicago. He specialized in the utility fields, which would lead him to Wisconsin Gas Co. in 1964. He was named president and chief executive officer in 1969 and in 1983 became chairman and CEO. 

In 1980, Hoffer led the creation of WICOR and established it as a holding company for both utility and non-utility divisions. He served as president and CEO of WICOR from 1980 to 1984, then as chairman and CEO until he retired in 1986. The firm later became part of the Wisconsin Energy Corp. and, most recently, We Energies. 

His wife, Martha C. Quirk Hoffer, whom he dated in high school and then married in 1946, died in 2007. They are survived by a daughter, Elizabeth Maniaci of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.