Gary Hoff, D.O., began helping local elementary school kids with reading because the Rotary Club of Des Moines, of which he’s been a member for about 15 years, had adopted a school for its Earn to Learn program. That evolved into his using both his artistic and scientific expertise with students at the city’s Downtown School, for which he was named the 2013 Roger T. Stetson Rotarian of the Year.
Hoff, associate professor of behavioral medicine, worked on reading with students in the seven- and eight-year-old classroom of teachers Amanda Clark and Molly Sweeney. When the two teachers moved to a new learning group of nine- and 10-year-olds, Hoff joined them. Because those students didn’t need as much help reading, Clark, who knew Hoff is an accomplished artist, asked him to instead share his knowledge in that area. He gave presentations on the basics of painting, taught weekly art lessons and introduced drawing still-life images.
“The students always looked forward to his visits for art time, and our returning students asked about him in August,” the teachers stated in a letter to the Rotary Club to express their appreciation.
When the class began studying the human body, the teachers tapped Hoff’s expertise in that area, too. He brought to the school a human heart, liver, stomach and esophagus, and connected them with a high school anatomy/physiology teacher. He also worked with students during their research at the city’s central library.
“The vast majority of elementary school students are just little sponges. With some you can almost see their faces light up,” Hoff says. “It’s fun, too, to see how they change and grow over the school year.”
The Rotary Club’s Roger T. Stetson honor is given to a member who has made exceptional contributions to the club and community. While an emergency in the DMU Clinic caused Hoff to miss the July 11 meeting when it was awarded – his wife, Pat, accepted the title in his absence – Hoff says he was “honored and humbled by it.”
He adds that Rotary Club of Des Moines, the oldest Rotary Club west of the Mississippi River, is well-known for its service activities. “That made it even more humbling to be recognized.”