Our beloved colleague Professor David Hoover died suddenly on May 25th, 2023 after a remarkable forty-one year career of service to our students and commitment to the mission of the department. Those of us who were his colleagues over the years responded to the announcement of his passing with heartfelt expressions of shock and sadness—knowing, nonetheless, that such words could not fully plumb the depth of our feelings. We have lost a friend, a man of great personal integrity, a man whose judgment we respected, and one who over the years played a crucial role in the growth of our academic program. In response to the notice of his death, many of us wrote to recall some special moment when we were mentored by David, or when we had a long-past conversation with him that we still recalled, or when his sense of fairness and his clear judgment guided us in our deliberations during department meetings. In fact, he wrote the book: the first version of the Faculty Handbook that still governs our proceedings. In these circumstances, can any English professor resist Hamlet’s praise for his father? “He was a man, take him for all in all, / I shall not look upon his like again.”
One result of David’s modesty is that not all of us were aware of his scholarly distinction in the fields of Old English, linguistics, stylistic analysis, and in the theory and application of Digital Humanities. David was as much an innovator as a participant in this burgeoning discipline. He wrote or contributed to five books, and was a member of key international research projects—for one example, as an advisor and visiting professor at the Huygens Institute in the Netherlands on a research project on “The Riddle of Literary Quality,” and as a Project Partner, on “Quantitative Literaturwissenschaft” at the University of Stuttgart.
Closer to home, David set up our own program in Digital Humanities, offering courses that drew students from across the University. He was present at the installation of our first computer, now a museum piece but then state of the art, an IBM desktop, in 1983, and he taught the rest of us technical illiterates what this thing might do for us. Early on, he started writing his own programs to facilitate his research. Thereafter, he became the ever generous go-to person in the Department for anyone with a computer question.
It is hard to imagine the English Department at NYU without David Hoover, and we will miss his kindness, his wisdom and his good humor tremendously.
By Professor Ernest Gilman, who joined the English Department in 1981, the same year as David Hoover.