Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Xavier's Father Hoff dies at 72

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

Father Hoff
Rev. James E. Hoff
EVANSTON - The Rev. James E. Hoff, a Jesuit priest who was chancellor and former president of Xavier University, died this morning at his campus residence surrounded by friends. He was 72.

In March, Father Hoff learned he had cancer that had spread to his kidney, liver, lung and brain.

As Xavier's 33rd president, from 1991 to 2000, he oversaw the largest capital campaign in the school's history. It raised $125 million for the university, enabled an era of physical improvements on the campus, which culminated in the construction of the 10,000-seat Cintas Center in 2000. University officials say he laid the groundwork for the historic NCAA Basketball Tournament run this year.

"Jim Hoff is so loved and admired in the Xavier community that the depth of our sadness is beyond words," said Michael Graham, president of XU. "Jim set a tone that pushed the university and all of us associated with it to dream big and strive to be better."

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Father Hoff also crafted a reputation of academic excellence and moral conscience for Xavier. In 1995 XU was counted one of the top 10 universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and has remained on the list since.

"He was first of all a priest and that was always his primary role," said Joseph A. Pichler, retired chairman of the Kroger Co., XU board member and a close friend of Father Hoff. "In that role he was a marvelous spiritual model, personal counselor, and really a reflection of God's goodness in the world.

"It also happens he was a very skilled administrator and that combination of roles served Xavier well.

"He had a great characteristic. He also reached out and asked for advice...and he genuinely wanted to hear what you thought about it. He was engaged with people actively and that's a very unusual characteristic. Maybe that's the characteristic of really great leaders."

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com