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October 21, 2012

ULM awards Hoffmann prestigious Lifetime Achievement award

When the ULM Warhawks delivered an upset victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks earlier this season, one of the most instantly recognizable voices to join in the jubilation erupted from a familiar figure perched high in the press box over Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

West Monroe native Frank Hoffmann, a Louisiana state legislator who freely admits to "living for football weekends," is now in his 37th season as the official "Voice of the Warhawks."

Not only is he among the University of Louisiana at Monroe's biggest fans, Hoffmann is also among the institution's most distinguished alums.

He was recently named the 2012 recipient of the ULM George T. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hoffmann will receive his award at the annual ULM Homecoming Brunch on Oct. 27, during alumni weekend at the school. The award, named in honor of ULM President Emeritus George T. Walker, is given to those who distinguish themselves through professional and personal achievement and who have served the university and alumni well over many years.

Over the decades and with rare exception, Hoffmann has been an omnipresent force at most Warhawk games. His sonorous voice has provided the kind of consistent and credible play-by-play action that Warhawk radio listeners have come to rely on, much like a steady friend.

As support for the Warhawk football team continues to peak with each successive win this season, Hoffmann views the possibility of a Sun Belt Conference championship with the energy of a young college student.

"I guess you'd have to go back to 1987 for anything like it," he said.

That was the year the Warhawks' 13-2 winning season culminated with a Division I-AA championship against Marshall University in Pocatello, Idaho.

Hoffmann recalled the victory with obvious fondness. But it was the "Hail Mary" pass thrown against rival Northwestern earlier in the 1987 season that Hoffmann said was forever etched in his memory.

"That was the only time I lost it on air," he confessed.

Hoffmann earned his stripes under the tutelage of Dave Woodman, who delivered play-by-play action for the team formerly known as the Northeast Louisiana University Indians. (Interestingly, Woodman left Louisiana to perform as the "Voice of the Razorbacks" for many years.)

To this day, Hoffmann uses the same charts that Woodman used in the 1960s to record the action on the field.

Hoffmann and Woodman remain close friends and even sat side-by-side during the Sept. 8 football game that earned the Warhawks national recognition following their win over the Razorbacks.

"Dave was really quiet, but he was respectful," Hoffmann said with a smile, clearly savoring the moment.

Hoffmann's first brush with ULM was as a student, not as a sportscaster.

He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Speech and Social Studies, with Certification in Elementary Education, in 1966.

He followed that with a Master's in Elementary Education with certification in Administration and Supervision, and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with Emphasis in Reading.

Hoffmann has served in several education-related capacities over the years, including as assistant superintendent in the Ouachita Parish School District and as an adjunct assistant professor at ULM.

But one of his most cherished avocations is encouraging all Louisianans, young and old alike, to read more.

"I'm a read-aloud advocate," he said. "If we could get parents to read to their kids just 15 minutes a day, we'd revolutionize education in this state. And we need men reading, too, not just the mothers."

His strong belief in reading led Hoffmann to develop a program to encourage elementary principals to read aloud in every classroom on a regular basis.

Hoffmann has written several papers outlining the highly successful program, and he still tries to carve out time to read to Ouachita Parish school children when he can.

Hoffmann is truly a man who practices what he preaches. He and his wife of 31 years, Susan, not only used to read to their sons (one is a medical doctor and one is in law school), but Hoffmann continues to be an advocate for read alouds.

Hoffmann also recently co-sponsored a state resolution calling for the inclusion of "read alouds" in early childhood education programs.

Hoffmann also authored a "Value Added" education bill in 2010, which required for the first time that a teacher's evaluation be tied to student progress in the classroom.

Although lauded in some circles, Hoffmann concedes the bill also rankled some feathers because it was such a departure from the previous method of evaluating teachers.

"As I often tell teachers, what we have done in education is still a work in progress," said Hoffmann.

"I have great respect for our teachers, especially those here in Ouachita Parish. We have to make it right for good teachers. I will work to do just that, make it right for good teachers."

His work in education was enough to earn Hoffmann recognition as the "Legislator of the Year" from the Louisiana Association of Principals and the ULM College of Education's 1995 "Outstanding Alumni."

Hoffmann does not focus exclusively on educational issues as a member of the House of Representatives.

He also serves as Health and Welfare Committee Vice-Chair and is particularly interested in supporting pro-life legislation. (Hoffmann teaches adult scripture study at First Baptist Church in West Monroe.)

But in the end, education will always be a driving force for Hoffmann.

Higher education in general, and ULM in particular, is a major factor in improving the quality-of-life in Louisiana, according to Hoffmann.

And the successive wins for the Warhawk team have come at a critical juncture during challenging times of budget constraints, he said.

"I'm tremendously excited. We've got some great things going on at ULM right now. We're doing all the things we need to do," said Hoffmann.

"A successful football season just adds to it," he concluded.

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