In Tribute to Dr. Lou Hoffman

Formally he was Louis G. Hoffman, O.D., M.S., FAAO, FCOVD. But among his many colleagues, mentees and friends he was simply known as Lou. Much more than his name, “Lou” became a term of endearment and reverence when we spoke about him (much like the fondness Yankee fans held for their beloved left fielder, Lou Piniela). It was therefore with heavy hearts that word spread over the weekend about Lou’s passing, a couple of months shy of his 90th birthday.

Lou graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1956, and returned to the College in the mid 1970s to help spearhead a unique Pediatric Optometry Service that was being created by Dr. Jack Richman. He is pictured above with Dr. Richman (seated) as they collaborated in 1975, the year I first encountered him as a student in clinic. I’m sorry I don’t have a face-forward photo of Lou handy, but long-standing readers of the Journal of Optometric Vision Development will be able to image his pipe-toting visage as he regularly reviewed pertinent literature from ERIC, an online library of education research and information, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.

Courtesy of Dr. Richman, here is a photo of Dr Hoffman, as well as a photo of the MacElree Building on the campus of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in which the Pediatric Clinic was housed.

Lou wrote many things, but among his impressive contributions the finest may have been a three-part series that he authored for Optometric Monthly in February, March, and April of 1979. It was a distillation of the process of standardized testing, culminating in the evaluation profile that he began putting together with Jack at PCO earlier in the decade. Having pulled up their East Coast roots, Lou and Lettie moved to Southern California where he would serve as a mentor and role model for outstanding clinician/educators at SCCO, most notably Drs. Mike Rouse, Julie Ryan, Sue Cotter, and Eric Borsting.

His influence would pervade not only academia and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO), but the Diplomate program in Binocular Vision and Perception of the American Academy of Optometry as well as the Fellowship program of COVD. Lou had a soft voice of reason, and a gift for enabling others to bring out the best in themselves. He was a deep thinker who was caring and compassionate, while at the same time remaining modest and self-effacing about the extent of his influence.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the optometric literature in the areas of vision therapy and vision development, Lou was the recipient of the A.M. Skeffington Award in 1993. On a personal note, having the privilege of presenting the award to Lou was one of the highlights of my professional career. I wish I still had the bibliography of his contributions that I put together in nominating him, but here is just a sample to give you a flavor.

Hoffman LG. An optometric learning disability evaluation- part 1. Optom Monthly 1979;70(2):78-81.
Hoffman LG. An optometric learning disability evaluation- part 2. Optom Monthly 1979;70(3):77-82.
Hoffman LG. An optometric learning disability evaluation- part 3. Optom Monthly 1979; 70(4): 70-77

Hoffman LG, Rouse, MW. Referral recommendations for binocular function and/or developmental perceptual deficiencies. J Am Optom Assoc 1980;51:119-26.

Hoffman LG. Incidence of vision difficulties in children with learning disabilities. J Am Optom Assoc 1980;51:447-51.

Hoffman LG. The effect of accommodative deficiencies on the developmental level of perceptual skills. Am J Optom Physiol Opt 1982;59:254-62.

Hoffman LG. The purpose and role of vision therapy. J Optom Vision Dev 1988; 19(1):2-7.

Hoffman LG. The role of the optometrist in the diagnosis and management of learning-related vision problems.
In: Scheiman MM, Rouse MW, eds. Optometric management of learning related vision problems. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book, 1994. (Lou’s last project in Optometry was writing an update of this chapter for the 2nd edition of the book that was published in 2006.)

Lou’s fingerprints can be found on a number of other key publications, one being a special report on the efficacy of optometric vision therapy that was published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association in 1988, for which his input is acknowledged. Another is a Joint Organizational Policy Statement of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association on Vision, Learning and Dyslexia, formulated by a Task Force on which Lou and I served along with Drs. Ron Bateman, Eric Borsting, Sue Cotter, Kelly Frantz, Ralph Garzia, Steve Miller, Glen Steele, and Gary Williams.

He is already sorely missed, but Lou can rest in peace knowing that his legacy lives on, flourishing through the organizations and individuals that he loved and nurtured.

12 thoughts on “In Tribute to Dr. Lou Hoffman

  1. Len, that was beautiful. I don’t know how many times I experienced and witnessed “Lou had a soft voice of reason, and a gift for enabling others to bring out the best in themselves.” We were blessed to have known him. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loved spending time with him on the COVD Exam Board. I still tell his Nun and Gorilla joke and recall him fondly whenever I do.

  3. Dr. Hoffman was one of my mentor’s when I was a student at SCCO and I remember him fondly as one of my favorite clinic supervisors, who also taught our visual information processing/vision and learning courses. He’s probably the one that introduced me to most of you! Some cool facts: His son Bob and daughter-in-law, Liane, were a class ahead of me and practice in Northern California, while Dr. Hoffman’s grandson, Steven, also graduated from SCCO and is currently finishing up his residency in Peds at SCCO. I heard that Dr. Hoffman was certainly quite pleased that Steven loves VT. RIP Dr. Hoffman. Thank you for all of your contributions to our profession!

  4. An inspiring teacher of developmental and functional vision at SCCO. Taught an informative and practical course in practice management. Provided valuable advise in the purchase of my practice. A dedicated supporter of independent practice optometry.

  5. Dr. Sue Cotter shared the following (posted with her permission):

    As many of you know, Lou Hoffman was one of my primary mentors when I was a Peds resident at SCCO, and I considered him to be a dear friend until the day he passed away. I have so many things to thank him for, including my core attributes as a clinician. Lou helped me to develop my model of vision, taught me how to talk to parents, and helped me discover that it was not the “therapy technique” per se that was important when treating kids with visual information processing deficits. He provided me valuable analogies for explaining different aspects of visual information processing to parents (albeit I have substituted a chair for the “pipe” analogy for directionality) and how to have a jolly good laugh. A consummate clinician, Lou was full of sage advice and awesome jokes. He is also the award holder for the “best practical joke ever played on Sue Cotter.” So many fond memories. Man – he was the best!

    It has been kind of cool this year to say, “Well Steven, your grandpa taught me that……….”

    I love that Dave Cook noted that he still tells a certain joke that Lou told him…….I need to ask Dave next time I see him.

  6. Loved your comments about Lou. We need to hear about the best practical joke that Lou played on you. He would enjoy another round of laughs about it.

    I remember his laugh well while hanging out with him at meetings, even played golf with him a few times, which was memorable. His writings were among my favorites in my early career. He was a true giant in our profession.

  7. Terrific tribute Len. It is so sad to loose my dear friend and mentor and the person who I consider one of the founding fathers in today’s Optometric involvement in the field of Binocular vision and Vision Therapy.

  8. Lenny – Thank you for your warm, heartfelt tribute to Lou. As you know I was a resident under Lou and Jack at PCO. Lou would arrive at the clinic after a long drive from Enola with a smile. He would have a joke for our receptionist, Elaine. Then he would get a mug of coffee and off we would go with a heavy schedule of appointments. With me, Lou didn’t teach, he guided. He would ask probing questions until you arrived at the right conclusion. By the end of the day he made you feel like you accomplished good outcomes. So you felt good about your work and your self. That’s how I remember Lou, he guided you in clinic and life.

    • So good to hear from you, Chris. Of course I remember that you and Jerry were residents under Lou and Jack!
      What a motley crew, in a very fond way, along with Earl Simon and Chuck Allen, all kept in line by Elaine who was tough as nails (because she needed to be). Your description of Lou and his Socratic methodology is perfect. Although I was privileged to be the direct beneficiary of Lou’s role modeling as an extern, I craved his inherited wisdom imparted through you and Ralph during my residency the year after yours when Jack and Lou went mid-Westward and Westward. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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