Richard “Dick” Hoppe, a former member of the Kenyon psychology faculty and an affiliated scholar in biology at the College, died on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. He was 76 and a resident of Mount Vernon’s Country Court Nursing Home.
A native of Minnesota, born on May 19, 1941, Hoppe served in the U.S. Navy as a Polaris autopilot technician from August 1960 to August 1964. He then entered the University of Minnesota, where he received a B.A. in anthropology and psychology in 1968 before going on to earn a Ph.D. in experimental psychology there in 1972.
Hoppe joined the Kenyon faculty in 1971 as an assistant professor of psychology. In the summer of 1972, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Research in Human Learning. He won promotion to associate professor in 1978 and full professor in 1989.
“I considered Dick to be a best friend both as a colleague and socially,” says Charles “Chuck” Rice, professor emeritus of psychology. “Professionally, he was brilliant in his field — so much so that he created an innovative mathematically based investment strategy for trading international currency. The technique was so attractive that he eventually decided to give up his tenured position at the College to engage in full-time investing with a group of Kenyon graduates active in that field.
“Dick did not, however, give up his service to the College Township Fire Department,” Rice emphasizes. “He continued to contribute his time and energy to protect his community. Even after he retired from professional activity, he continued to donate his abilities to community service in a number of ways.”
Linda Smolak, professor emerita of psychology and the College’s civil rights compliance assessor, remembers, “When I arrived at Kenyon, my office was next door to Dick’s. His intensity and strong opinions, often accompanied by some tai chi movements, initially seemed a bit intimidating. But I quickly learned that his sometimes gruff exterior could not hide his wry sense of humor, his commitment to our students, and his devotion to his wife, Kay. It also couldn’t conceal his willingness to help. Dick was always willing to talk through a problem or a concern. Even when we disagreed, he had a generous spirit.
“Dick also brought a different perspective to teaching,” Smolak adds. “He had been in the Navy and had worked in industry before coming to the College. Those life experiences informed his teaching. His ‘Industrial/Organizational Psychology’ class was a favorite with our students for its substantial real-life applications.
“Even after leaving the department to pursue his other interests, Dick was always ready to talk about psychology, investments and even horses. He continued to work with Kenyon students on their business ventures. He was a problem-solver, a person of deep intellectual curiosity in a variety of areas, and a dedicated member of the community.
Hoppe was widely published in professional journals, with articles on subjects ranging from parapsychology to statistics, from aircraft control designs to the battles between creationism and evolution in the nation’s schools. Active in campus governance, he had served as chair of the faculty, chair of the psychology department, chair of the Social Infractions Division of the Judicial Board, and as a member of numerous other committees and councils.
“I remember Dick as someone who had an extraordinarily varied and rich life before he came to Kenyon,” says Fred Baumann, professor of political science. “He was the only non-Native American founder of the American Indian Movement, a Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party operative, a missile engineer on submarines, a sculptor, a poet. And I remember him as a brave man willing to stand up for real education, whether that meant taking on creationists in Mount Vernon or those who wanted to politicize education at the College.”
Hoppe left Kenyon after the 1990-91 academic year to become a freelance consultant specializing in artificial intelligence for market modeling. He joined IntelliTrade in 1993 as a principal with expertise in derivatives trading and risk-estimation consulting. He later returned to the classroom as a visiting faculty member in the biology department.
Both during and after his time on the faculty, Hoppe was a mainstay of several volunteer organizations in Gambier and elsewhere in Knox County. First among these was the College Township Fire Department, with which he worked for more than 35 years. He was also a former president of the board of Knox-New Hope Industries, co-coordinator of the Knox County Technical Rescue Team, and a six-year member of the Knox County Adolescent Suicide Prevention Task Force, for which he won the 1985 volunteer-of-the-year award from the Knox County Mental Health Association.
In June 2016, Dick was recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work with senior citizens living in long-term-care facilities. He traveled to area nursing homes to ensure that residents were visited quarterly, and he assisted with complaint resolutions.
Hays Stone ’99, who retired from the College’s Office of Public Affairs, recalls that Hoppe called bingo for years for the Knox County Humane Society, where she also volunteers, until his declining health made it impossible. He had also been a scuba instructor.
Hoppe is survived by his wife, Kay, a retired teacher in the Mount Vernon City School District.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Knox County Humane Society, 400 Columbus Road, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050. A memorial service will be scheduled and announced at a later date.