If you've read The Dallas Morning News this morning, you know Robert Hoffman died yesterday at 59 of acute myelogenous leukemia. His death received mention on the front page of almost every section of the paper; his name was absent only from SportsDay and the classifieds. Certainly, his is a significant death; it would have been had he only co-founded National Lampoon, which he did in 1970 when Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Hoffman licensed the name from the Harvard Lampoon and launched the franchise. Hoffman, the St. Mark's School of Texas grad who became a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School, was only on the magazine's masthead for one year--he was listed as managing editor in 1970--but was part of the magazine till its sale in 1975, the proceeds from which he funded his burgeoning art collection.
Of course, Hoffman is better known around these parts as art collector, Coca-Cola bottler and generous philanthropist; he was also very much behind The Dallas Plan, when, in 1992, then-Mayor Steve Bartlett convinced Hoffman to help reshape the city as something other than a small town with big-city problems. Two weeks ago, Boston-based urban planner Antonio DiMambro--who is more or less redesigning many of the neighborhoods in South Dallas, including Jubilee Park and Frazier around Fair Park--told me he began working in Dallas at Hoffman's behest.
"We met one day, and then we had a couple of phone conversations and Mr. Hoffman asked me to come to Dallas," DiMambro said. "I was blown away by Dallas because I find it the most American city, I tell my friends. When people come to visit me from Italy and they say they want to go to America, I tell them they should go to Dallas because of all the wonderful things and all the problems a contemporary American city faces... Robert Hoffman brought me to Dallas, and one of Dallas' strengths and what impressed me is the nonprofit philanthropic world there." Indeed, Hoffman and his wife Marguerite just donated $150 million worth of art to the Dallas Museum of Art, and donated $5 million through the Hoffman Family Foundation for its Campaign for a New Century.
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Janet Kutner's piece on Hoffman offers a fairly comprehensive portrait of Hoffman. But it does leave me with one question: Her front-page obituary reads, "Born in Dallas on July 18, 1947, Mr. Hoffman held strong ties to his hometown and worked hard to improve the quality of life here." But the family's farewell, which appears on page 4B of the Metro section, says in the second sentence, "He was born on July 18, 1947, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Edmund M. and Adelyn J. Hoffman." So, which is it? This woulda never flown at National Lampoon. Oh, wait. --Robert Wilonsky