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Easton Mayor Thomas F. Goldsmith has proclaimed Sunday, May 5, “Aaron O. Hoff Day” in the city, in connection with the unveiling of a memorial at Hoff’s Easton Cemetery gravesite, which has been unmarked since his death a century ago.

  • The McDonogh Report celebrates the contributions of African Americans to the Lafayette community.

A member of Lafayette’s inaugural class and its first African American student, Hoff sounded a trumpet summoning 43 students and three teachers on the College’s very first day of class, May 9, 1832. A prominent member of the Easton community, he died January 29, 1902, at age 94.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Hoff’s death, Lafayette students have led an initiative to create a gravesite memorial, which will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5.

At 6 p.m. that evening, in the Bergethon Room of Marquis Hall on campus, Lafayette will hold the 12th annual Aaron O. Hoff Awards ceremonies recognizing individuals and groups for their contributions to the College and the community. Lafayette will also honor Hoff by conferring on him posthumously an honorary bachelor of arts degree at the College’s 167th Commencement exercises Saturday, May 25.

“The committee is dedicated to erecting a memorial that is fitting for the setting and noteworthy of Aaron O. Hoff and Lafayette,” says Landon J. Adams, a senior religion major from Columbus, Ohio, who is chair of the Hoff centennial memorial project committee.

“At Lafayette we are proud to be more than a number,” Adams says. “Currently at Hoff’s grave there is only a marker designating the plot number. The committee has vowed to give Hoff his name back.”

Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute, has designed a bronze statue of a horn blower to stand atop a black granite memorial at the gravesite. The memorial will also include bronze disks designed by Holton bearing Hoff’s image and telling his Lafayette legacy.

Money for scholarships and grants that will benefit the Easton community in Hoff’s honor is also being raised. “The purpose of this project does not stop at the cemetery,” Adams says.

Goldsmith, a 1963 Lafayette graduate, says, “Aaron O. Hoff was a vibrant member of our community. His service to the college and the city is truly worthy of the honor that this project is giving him. Mr. Hoff was a model citizen and our two communities are better because of him. The unveiling of the monument will be truly an historic day in the history of the college and the city.”

The mayor’s proclamation reads, “Whereas, on May 9, 1832, Aaron O. Hoff, Lafayette’s first Black student, sounded the trumpet calling students to the very first class at Lafayette College; and whereas, the Aaron O. Hoff Centennial Memorial Project Committee was formed to honor his life and legacy by creating a memorial for his unmarked gravesite in Easton Cemetery; and whereas, Lafayette College will award an honorary degree to the late Aaron O. Hoff at this year’s commencement exercises; and whereas, the unveiling of the memorial will be held on Sunday, May 5, 2002, now, therefore, I, Thomas F. Goldsmith, Mayor of the City of Easton, do hereby proclaim May 5th, 2002, as Aaron O. Hoff Day in Easton, and on behalf of our citizens, do thank Aaron O. Hoff for his contributions to our community.”

The memorial project kicked off in February with an event that included the laying of a wreath at the Hoff gravesite. Other members of the memorial project committee, all seniors, are vice chair Nana Ama Bentsi-Enchill of Falls Church, Va. (government and International Studies); treasurer Benjamin Mack of Ridgewood, N.J. (International Affairs); campaign manager Matthew Murphy of Babylon, N.Y. (economics and business); events coordinator Jadrien Ellison of Paterson, N.J. (Africana Studies); and community liaison Alandra VanDross of Elmont, N.Y. (Africana Studies).

Carrie L. Spell, assistant dean of students and director of intercultural development, is a committee member ex-officio. For information, contact the Hoff Committee at the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center, (610) 330-5819.

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