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New scholarship honors veteran and dedicated air traffic controller

Above: Left: John Hoffmann pictured during his time in the Air Force. Right: John pictured during his time at the Federal Aviation Administration. Photos courtesy of Kathy Walker

“Had John Hoffmann attended Arizona State University’s air traffic management program, he would’ve been an exemplary student,” says Mary Hoffmann, John’s wife of 61 years.

John passed away in 2019, but a new endowed scholarship will carry his legacy into the future of air traffic management and engineering at The Polytechnic School, one of six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

Mary believes the support this scholarship offers is a gift not only for the student recipient, but a tribute to John as well. 

“It’s a contribution John would’ve been ecstatic to share,” she says.

Rachael Shantz, a third-year air traffic management student and Thunderbird Field II Veteran’s Memorial, Inc. Aviation Scholarship recipient, can strongly attest to this impact.

“The generous scholarship I received was truly life changing for me,” she says. “In a rather turbulent period of my life, the contribution to my education allowed me to focus on what matters most — my studies and my air traffic control training.”

A lifelong commitment to aviation and service

John and Mary met during their grade school years in Brooklyn, New York, and continued their relationship into high school and beyond. After their wedding, they moved to the United Kingdom while John completed his service as a radar controller in the U.S. Air Force.

After five years in the military, the Hoffmanns moved back to New York where John became an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Route Traffic Control Center, or ARTCC. After 38 years in that role, the maximum allowable tenure, he retired and joined IBM as a chief engineer.

“He retired from the ARTCC on a Friday and started work at IBM the following Monday,” Mary says. “If there’s one thing to remember about John, it was his undeniable work ethic and commitment to his family, career and community.”

He continued his career in engineering at Lockheed Martin, then Northrop Grumman. 

In addition to leading a long and successful aviation career, John dedicated his spare time to various community causes. He served as a volunteer firefighter for 33 years and was elected fire commissioner for 10 years. He was also an electrician.

After John’s retirement in 2013, the Hoffmanns and their four children moved to Mesa, Arizona.

“My parents’ greatest gift is their work ethic, commitment to the community, devotion to family and eternal love for each other,” says Kathy Walker, daughter of John and Mary. “My brother John J. Hoffmann III followed in my dad’s footsteps by also specializing in air traffic control in New York, showing how influential and inspiring my dad was.”

Following in John’s footsteps

The Hoffmann family chose to support ASU’s air traffic management program because of the strong parallels between the degree program and John’s career. “There are only about a dozen air traffic management programs in the country, and we are lucky to live near The Polytechnic School,” Mary says.

The Polytechnic School is home to ASU’s aviation programs where students can immerse themselves in state-of-the-art equipment in a region with abundant aviation resources. Being close to a school that trains the next generation of air traffic controllers helped inspire Mary to establish the scholarship in her late husband’s name.

The benefits of a scholarship can often go beyond the classroom, and that’s just how Savannah Harper, a third-year air traffic management student describes the impact of her Joyce Corrigan Scholarship for Women in Aviation.

“My scholarship not only ensured that I had the resources necessary to continue my education, but also encouraged me to take care of myself while at school and at work,” Harper says. “I can’t properly express my gratitude to our generous donors for helping to keep my family and me financially secure during these times!”

With the John and Mary Hoffmann Memorial Endowed Scholarship, more students like Shantz and Harper will be supported as they train to manage traffic overhead.

“Honoring my dad by inspiring an ASU student to follow in his footsteps is exactly what he would’ve wanted,” Walker says. “We would want the recipient of this scholarship to look at my dad and think, that’s what I want to do, too.”

About The Author

Sona Srinarayana

Sona Srinarayana joined the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering marketing and communications team in February 2020 and is based at The Polytechnic School. She brings with her, a decade of communications experience in various industries, including higher education. She earned her B.A. degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an Arizona native.

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