My Friend Bill
By VAN SKILLING '55
uring the second semester of my senior year in 1955, I was enrolled in Freedom and Authority and Recent U.S. History, both taught by history professor Lew Worner. Lew, a tall, lanky man with a soft Missouri drawl, had a marvelous ability to make history come alive. He had an equally marvelous ability to inspire his students, and he was largely responsible for rescuing me from pursuing the social side of college life at the expense of the pursuit of knowledge. So it was not without some apprehension that I greeted the news of March 13, 1955: Lew had been appointed dean of the college and his classes would be taken over by a newcomer named William Hochman, an even taller, lankier man. Bill had a tough row to hoe. But it became obvious immediately that this young interloper knew a thing or two about his subjects and could make them come alive at least as well as Lew had.
In May of that year, the day arrived for senior sneak. Senior sneak was a CC tradition in those days -- a day when the senior class, fortified with kegs of beer and hot dogs, would take off up Ute pass to the mountains or out to Austin Bluffs for a day of what todayís corporate world would call "team building." Bill didnít quite know what to think when Midd Gammell, Dick Hayes, Dick Smith, and I walked into class, took him by the arm and announced that he was to come with us. Fortunately -- since he was bigger, stronger, and Iím sure wilier than any of us -- he did not resist. Seated in the back of Middís car with an open can of Coors in his hand at 8 in the morning, Iím sure he was skeptical when we told him that it was a real honor to be a kidnapped professor during senior sneak. For an individual to be selected for this dubious honor after only a matter of weeks on campus was quite special indeed, and portended things to come.
Soon after arriving at the beer bust, we discovered Billís talent as a softball pitcher. As the day wore on, we discovered another of his many talents: reciting a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ribald limericks, sung to the tune of:
"aye, yi, yi, yi, in China they never eat chili ~ ~
so here comes another verse much worse than the other verse
so waltz me around again Willie" ~ ~
As sophisticated college seniors, we thought we had heard them all. We soon realized, however, that Billís illustrious Navy experience had prepared him for things other than simply teaching history and philosophy courses.
My experience with Bill continued into the next generation when my daughter, Kim, became a history major at Colorado College. During her sophomore year, she wanted to go to London and Florence as part of a semester abroad study program. Some 22 years after our senior sneak, I was no longer a limerick-singing, beer swigging senior, but a tuition-paying father. Remembering some of my college experiences, the thought of my daughter loose in London, let alone Florence, was of some concern. But when she told me Bill Hochman (accompanied by his wife, Nancy) was directing the program, I quickly relented. Kim says in London, Bill started class every morning with the chant, "Look right, look left," as a warning about cars driving on the wrong side of the road. Bill, who decried his attendance policy on the first day of class as "horizontal or vertical, you will be here," was Kimís advisor. He had a tremendous influence on her life, just as he had on mine.
As he moves from dean of the Summer Session to emeritus status, Bill still has a tremendous influence on studentsí lives. I feel privileged to be able to call him a friend.
For more, see Bill Hochman's retirement speech given at Homecoming 1998.Back to Index