Elizabeth 'Betsy' Hoffman

Honored by:Zora Zimmerman and Jeannie Murdock
Brick location:D:9  map

“If you want to make a difference in this wild and crazy environment, you have to be willing to step back and let the processes take place. Patience is a weapon because it allows you to make things happen.” Betsy Hoffman Iowa State Daily, 1/24/05

Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, home of the like- named women’s liberal arts college. She attended college at another women’s institution, Smith College, intending to become a high school music teacher. When she got a D in a music theory class, she switched to history and graduated in 1968.

She received her Master’s Degree in History a year later and her history Ph.D. in 1972, both from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was on “The Sources of Mortality Changes in Italy Since Unification.”

Hoffman earned her degrees during a time when cliometrics was an extremely popular movement in the field of history. Cliometrics uses math and economics to prove historical ideas. This trend makes Hoffman’s pursuit of a second Ph.D. in economics somewhat understandable, but still quite remarkable. The young scholar taught economics courses while earning her first Ph.D., and soon after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she returned to school at the California Institute of Technology. Her second dissertation, finished in 1979, was “Essays in Optimal Resource Allocation Under Uncertainty with Capacity Constraints.”

After serving in administrative roles, as well as teaching history, economics, and even psychology at schools like University of Florida, University of Arizona, Purdue, and Northwestern University, Hoffman came to Iowa State as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1993.

Former Provost John Kozak said of her, “Elizabeth Hoffman brings to the deanship a diverse background, with broad experience in administration, teaching and a national reputation in scholarship. Her academic qualifications and disciplinary accomplishments are outstanding, and her convictions about higher education are very much in resonance with the complex missions of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

During her tenure, Hoffman even taught Economics 101, an unusual activity for a dean. She also managed to triple the amount of private funds raised and develop new degree programs in performing arts, women studies and environmental science.

In August 1997, she left Iowa State to become Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Again she educated while administrating, offering guest lectures in history, political science, psychology and economics. In 2000, Hoffman received the position of President of University of Colorado. Controversies surrounding the school’s football team led Hoffman to resign from her position in 2005.

She returned to Iowa State University, becoming the Executive Vice President and Provost in 2007. Her husband, Brian Binger, has retired from the ISU economics faculty. Hoffman is involved in community activities around Ames, including the League of Women Voters, the Story County branch of the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Ames Chamber of Commerce.

Source: Women at Iowa State: LAS and Engineering Website