Gordon Van Hooft, formerly of Phelps, establishes scholarship at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to honor all he received from Hobart and William Smith and from the schools in Phelps.
February 5, 2002 Geneva, N.Y. – Gordon Van Hooft’s education began in a one-room schoolhouse in Phelps with an exceptional teacher who encouraged him to read almost everything on the school’s bookshelf. He went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Rochester and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Illinois, write science textbooks, serve as NYS Education Department’s director of curriculum services, and advise the Ministries of Education in Indonesia and Vietnam.
For the education that opened those doors to him he is most grateful, and to “give back” he has established a scholarship fund at Hobart and William Smith in honor of his wife, Anita, a William Smith graduate, Class of 1940. The scholarship gives first priority to applicants with academic promise who are graduates of Midlakes High School, Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District.
“Both Anita and I had wonderful academic and personal experiences at Hobart and William Smith, and I am pleased with the way the Colleges are moving forward today. I am happy to be able to help young people benefit from what the Colleges offer,” said Van Hooft, a member of the Hobart Class of 1938. He hopes to be able to meet some of the first recipients of the newly established scholarship.
At 86, Van Hooft is still active and engaged in the field of education. He spends hours each day online, perusing and critiquing educational material in newspapers. In 1999 he received an award from the State Science Teachers Association for his contributions to science education in the 50 years since he was president in 1949-50.
Van Hooft decided to offer priority for the scholarship to Midlakes students because of his strong affinity for that school district. He still keeps in touch with and visits his former principal, Grove Nagel. “I graduated (with a class of about 30) as valedictorian, and was one of the few to receive a college entrance diploma, but after high school I had no real opportunities,” he said. “Grove encouraged me first to take a post-graduate year at Phelps High School, where I took additional English classes and learned French, and then to go on to Hobart. He gave me the push I needed to move me into a career I’ve loved.”
At Hobart, Van Hooft majored in math and physics, studying under professors he described as exceptional. He went on to teach high school science in Middlesex, then in Brighton as head of the science department and as varsity coach for football and later basketball. He served as president of the New York State Science Teachers Association in 1949-50 and on State Education advisory committees before joining the State Education Department in 1951. Prior to his retirement from the Department in 1980, he served as acting assistant commissioner for general education for several months.
The science textbooks Van Hooft wrote during his career have been donated by him to the Phelps Community Historical Society and can be viewed there. In addition, Van Hooft donated two reports to the Historical Society—a report about his Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) assignment for three months as the American adviser at a math and science textbook-writing seminar in Indonesia, and another on a three-month assignment for the same agency to South Vietnam as the advisor to set up a national curriculum center.
In October 2001, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Capital District Senior Issues Forum for his overall career, church and community service.
Van Hooft lives in Albany. His wife Anita passed away in 1998.
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