Ed Hoffman insists it was Ming the Merciless who opened the door. And his eyes.
Hoffman, a retired CPA/forensic accountant, is the coordinator of Literature Day, one of a series of events honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College. Among the topics speakers are scheduled to discuss are world literature in 1982, the 40-year evolution of Banned Books Week, the explosion of interest in fantasy literature, and the lives of published writers.
Presenters include author, journalist and commentator Burton Hersh; noted baseball writer Peter Golenbock; Eckerd College Assistant Professor, Access Services Librarian and Behavioral Sciences Liaison Heather Bush; and Ray Arsenault, Ph.D., the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and chairman of the Department of History and Politics at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.
The Literature Day program will take place on Saturday, February 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Lewis House on the Eckerd College campus, 4200 54th Avenue South in St. Petersburg. Although there is no charge, registration is required. Visit eckerd.edu/ASPECrsvp to register.
Hoffman, who lives part of the year in Philadelphia and part in St. Petersburg, is an ASPEC member and for several years has been attending Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes at Eckerd and Temple University, where he has led discussions in Short Stories and Classic Literature. He attributes his love of literature to Elliot Cades, aka Ming the Merciless, Hoffman’s 12th-grade English teacher at Central High School in Philadelphia.
“He got the nickname because he looked like Ming from Planet Mongo in the Flash Gordon comic strip and was a taskmaster,” Hoffman recalls. “‘Most Demanding’” was the title given to him in our yearbook. Everyone was scared to have him as a teacher. He was also my father’s high school English teacher.
“But he stimulated an interest in reading and good writing. We read Tolstoy and James Joyce … literature that wasn’t typical for high school. He opened our eyes. We read Hamlet, and that was the year, 1964, that the film version starring Richard Burton was in theaters. He arranged for us to go see it.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Hoffman knew about Eckerd College partly from its OLLI program and partly from his son, Mitchell, a 2008 Eckerd graduate. “When my wife and I started to spend winters in Florida, we went to an ASPEC program, were impressed, and decided to join.
“This is about the 20th Literature Day ASPEC has had,” he adds. “But we haven’t had one since 2019, primarily because of COVID. So this is exciting. Literature is just as important as it was before. And you have more opportunities to be able to read it—on a Kindle or an i-Pad or even on your smartphone.
“Literature is here to stay,” he says, “in one form or another.”