Hoffman leaves legacy with HOSA



JASPER — As a young school nurse in Jasper, Betty Hoffman envisioned starting a program in which students could learn about the different careers in the health care field.

Hoffman made that happen by creating a health occupations class and starting a chapter of the Health Occupations Students of America in Dubois County.

That was in the mid-1980s. And the program, in which students spend time shadowing health professionals in offices and departments of various health disciplines, continues.

“Betty is an icon of the program,” said Marsha Shepherd, chairperson/president of the HOSA board and director of compliance at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. “She had the vision. She understood that how else do you have students really get to know the field unless you have them shadow the careers they’re interested in?”

Hoffman, 91, died Wednesday.

Born and raised in Jasper, Hoffman graduated from Jasper High School in 1947. She went on to earn several degrees: her registered nurse degree from St. Joseph Infirmary/Nazareth School of Nursing in Louisville in 1950, her bachelor's degree in elementary education from St. Benedict’s College in Ferdinand in 1970, and her master's degree in health and safety education from Indiana University in 1973. In her career, she also worked at Stork Hospital in Huntingburg and Memorial Hospital in Jasper. She was a home health nurse. She was a certified EMT and a CPR instructor, and was a Red Cross First Aid instructor.

“She was licensed in I don’t know how many things,” Bev Alles said with a laugh. Alles worked alongside Hoffman as a nurse for Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools and eventually led the HOSA class when Hoffman retired. And they remained friends.

“She was always so much fun,” Alles said. “She was always laughing. She was always smiling and so helpful. Everybody just loved her.”

Alles recalled when Hoffman was looking at starting the health program for seniors from all four high schools in the county.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is crazy. This is never going to work,’” Alles said. “But she saw the need. At the time she started it, health careers weren’t real hot. But as time progressed, health careers became important.”

Photo provided by Cheryl Welp
The HOSA class of 1984-85 with their teacher, Betty Hoffman (middle).

After getting the support of the school district, Hoffman started the program in the 1982-83 school year, meeting with about 15 students for two periods in the basement of the former Jasper Middle School on Sixth Street.

“Her original idea was to start a nurse aide program,” Alles said. “She thought that if high school kids got into that [program], many would go on to nursing programs and to do other things: therapists, doctors, all the other medical professions.”

Hoffman recruited students at that time, and passed out information to the high schools. Cheryl Welp learned about HOSA through her Northeast Dubois guidance counselor. Although she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, she believed it would be in the health field.

“I didn’t realize what was all out there. That was eye-opening for me as a young high-school kid whose parents worked at a factory, said Welp, who is now executive director of post acute services at Memorial Hospital. “I didn’t know there were so many things you could do in health care.”

She said Hoffman was an inspiration to her and other students.

“It wasn’t just the program,” Welp said. “It was her spirit and her energy and her positivity that inspired a lot of us, not just in health care professions, but to be a good person and care for other people. She was fabulous.”

Now, the HOSA program, which operates as part of the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative, has dozens of students each year. This year’s group is about 50 students, though as many as 70 students have been in the program in a year, Shepherd said. An annual scholarship named after Hoffman is given out each year to a senior student in the HOSA program to help with college expenses.

Overall, about 10% of Memorial’s workforce went through the program, Shepherd noted.

“It’s a big deal,” she said.

After Hoffman retired in 1991 and Alles took the lead as HOSA’s teacher, Hoffman joined the HOSA board.

“She was that steady person that was, to everyone, like a mentor,” Shepherd said. “She was like a matriarch kind of person. She had a complete dedication to the program and wanted to make sure it continued on. That’s what we all felt without her even saying it. She was that invisible support to the people there, to make sure that the program continued.”

Hoffman was active in activities and events in the community. She served with the Easter Seal Society, Indiana Association of School Nurses, Dubois County Mental Health Association, Indiana Vocational Cooperative and the Jasper Business and Professional Women’s Club. She taught craft classes at the Arnold F. Habig Community Center.

“She was a wonderful person,” said Alles, who lived across the street from Hoffman for years, before Hoffman moved to Northwood Retirement Community. “Everyone liked her. I am going to miss her.”

Welp recalled an act of kindness Hoffman did for her.

Welp has spoken several times at a breakfast HOSA holds for the students and medical professionals that participate in the program. In 2015, Hoffman was at the breakfast when Welp shared her story, talked about Hoffman and shared a poem that she’d been given when she was young, called “Don’t Quit.” The poem meant a lot to Welp.

A couple of months later, she received a gift from Hoffman in the mail.

“It was a ceramic plate that you can hang on the wall. And it has on it the ‘Don’t Quit’ poem,” Welp said. “She had written this beautiful note to me, letting me know how proud she was of me. For a little girl from Northeast Dubois, to have her acknowledge me and tell me that she was proud, it was special. I sat in my kitchen and cried.”

Welp still has that plate, and the note. “I will never ever let go of it, because it means a lot to me," she said.

Hoffman has been inspiration to many by teaching them and giving them access to seeing the medical field from the inside.

“I know I’m not the only student she’s touched over the years,” Welp said. “She will have a special place in my heart forever. And I told her that.”

Hoffman is survived by three daughters, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and three brothers. Her husband, Jim, son, Tim, and two brothers preceded her in death.

A private family Mass of Christian burial will be held at a later date with burial to follow at Fairview Cemetery. Due to the pandemic, there will be no visitation.

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