By Yousof Hamza
From operating chemistry instrumentation to being on the sideline at Youngstown State University football games, Raymond E. Hoff is an unlikely character.
Hailing from Galeton, Colorado, Hoff attended the University of Northern Colorado, earning a degree in physics. He made money shearing sheep through college — before securing a job in Boulder, Colorado — designing optical crystal controllers.
Hoff was a junior state champion sheep shearer in Colorado and placed in the top 50 nationally for both junior and senior sheep shearing. After he moved to Youngstown, Hoff watched the Canfield Fair sheep shearing contest twice before competing in it.
“I went down and joined the sheep shearing contest,” he said. “Since I never sheared in the Ohio State Fair contest I went in the non[-statefair] and won it.”
Hoff competed two more times, winning both.
He then worked as an instrumentation specialist at Tulane University, New Orleans, before he was hired for the same job at YSU.
In 1996, YSU’s chemistry department purchased a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine and hired Hoff to work on it and all equipment to save costs and reduce downtime.
“I was on an NMR users group and they advertised the job here. And I came up here and interviewed and fell in love with the place,” Hoff said.
Chair emeritus of the chemistry department, Daryl Mincey, said Hoff remains an asset to the department. Not only does the university save money with Hoff on staff to fix equipment, he said, Hoff can fix anything.
“Sometimes a student will say, ‘This doesn’t work.’ [Hoff] will put his hand on it, and say, ‘It looks like it’s working now,’” he said.
Hoff is a selfless worker, Mincey said, and he does work at home and late at night. He likened Hoff and other salaried workers to news anchors where you only see part of their work.
“That’s got to be the easiest job in the world — they work two and a half hours a day. What can be an easier job than that?” Mincey said. “Well, what you don’t see is what the newscaster puts in to build half an hour.”
Hoff also has volunteered with the athletic department since his first day at YSU, when Mincey gave him a tour of the campus, including Stambaugh Stadium. There, he said, he volunteered to help fix the live stats system so there could be four viewing monitors. He then made a signal multiplier so each of the 32 stadium lodges could have a screen for viewing football stats.
When Trevor Parks, director of Athletics Communications, started at YSU in 2000, Hoff helped him maintain the live stats program until it became obsolete.
“If it wasn’t working, he would whip out his tools and try to … you had like nine pins going in or 12, 13 pins. He would take out a couple pins and jury rig it around and the next thing you know, it would come up,” Parks said.
He said Hoff also has helped his department by taking photos for sports information.
Over the years, Hoff has volunteered in a variety of ways for the athletic department, all while performing his job for chemistry. He’s done everything from maintaining the stats program to taking photos at football games, and from loading and unloading equipment on planes to driving the equipment to all away games.
Hoff said he drove to every away game except for the 2016 playoff semifinal game against Eastern Washington, which missed to attend his daughter’s wedding in New Orleans.
His daughter planned her wedding for December when the playoffs happen. He told his daughter because she scheduled her wedding for December, YSU would make the playoffs.
“I told Daryl that we’re going to be in the playoff game, and he says we’re playing Eastern Washington, and I say, ‘How do you know that?’” Hoff said. “He says, ‘That’s the game that’s going to hurt you the worst not being able to drive to.’”
Hoff thinks of himself as a different kind of fan and believes he is integral to the team.
“If I’m able to take one more pair of shoulder pads, or one more pair of cleats, or one more piece of equipment that might be needed during the game, that might be the difference of us winning a game or not,” he said.