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Ratte Award Winner Puts Down Roots in Many Fields

October 22, 2013

As a philosophy and mathematics double major, Benjamin Hoffman B.A. ’13 is used to going above and beyond. This passion for exceeding expectations earned Hoffman the 2013 Rena J. Ratte Award, the undergraduate college’s highest academic honor.

While at Lewis & Clark, Hoffman conducted research in the fields of physics, mathematics, philosophy, and geology. The summer after his first year, he studied tree roots and soil transport as part of the Juneau Icefield Research Program. Hoffman has since published a paper reflecting on that experience in the peer-reviewed publication Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

“Benjamin is intellectually fearless and insatiably curious in diverse intellectual areas,” says Liz Safran, associate professor of geological science. “He is the kind of person who plunges into difficult endeavors assuming he can do them—and he succeeds in whatever he attempts.”

Hoffman’s passion for learning and taking on new challenges is also seen beyond the classroom. The avid outdoorsman revived the Geology Club and scheduled several weekend-long trips throughout the state. Hoffman also organized a faculty and student reading group that discussed works on the philosophy of mathematics.

Hoffman is considering his options for graduate study in mathematics. He spent the summer working at Mission: Wolf sanctuary in Colorado. “I really enjoyed the simple life, the remoteness, and the sense of shared purpose I had at Lewis & Clark,” Hoffman says. “The college helped shape me into a pretty curious and tenacious person.”

The Rena J. Ratte Award recognizes students who pursue excellence and whose abilities and commitment produce distinct work. The colleagues, students, and friends of Ratte established the award after her unexpected death in 1970.

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