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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Family tree: How one alum knew Boston College was the place for her, and why she gives back

profile: debbie hoffman '79 - spring/summer 2009

Debbie Hoffman got her introduction to the Connell School at an early age.


"When I was in grammar school, my cousin was a nursing student at BC. She brought me in for a day and I was her patient in a skit for the School of Nursing, a pediatric patient. I'll never forget ‘going to college' with her, and believe it or not, this one day had a huge impact on me. I decided that's where I wanted to go, and that's where I ended up."

Such strength of conviction is typical for Hoffman. The first member of her immediate family to go to college, she was told upon applying early decision that due to the nursing program's popularity, she would only be accepted early if she changed her major to something else.

"I was very stubborn and said no," Hoffman laughs. Her gamble paid off: she was accepted into the School of Nursing in the regular admissions cycle.

She remembers the program as tough. "It was very stressful; everyone felt bad for us. You'd spend the day at the hospital, be assigned a patient, and have to have everything—research, documentation, presentation—ready for the next day." After graduation, Hoffman worked for four years before returning to Boston College for graduate school. She earned her MBA in 1988 after five years of night classes.

Today, Hoffman is a nursing supervisor at Tufts Medical Center, where she has worked for her entire career. She says she still feels a strong tie to Boston College and despite her busy schedule, seeks out opportunities to stay connected. She was on the reunion committee for two years and is also involved with the Second Helping Gathering, an annual benefit for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Recently, Hoffman served on the steering committee for the Shaw Society, which recognizes alumni, parents, and friends who've established a legacy gift—a bequest or life income gift—to benefit the University.

"I've enjoyed my work as an ambassador of the Shaw Society," says Hoffman. "If I could send a message to my class, or anybody my age, I would say the nice thing about the Shaw Society is that you don't have to pull your checkbook out today. Rather, it's something that will happen down the road." She and her husband Tom, a dedicated St. Lawrence alum, came to the decision of how to support their respective alma maters together: "We divvied up between the two schools. Our hockey teams have played each other and all that, but I have to say he's very supportive of BC."

Hoffman acknowledges the difficulty of giving in such uncertain financial times. "I'm right in the middle of sending kids to college—I have one there and three to go—so for me to make an significant donation, it's just not the right time. But with a planned gift, you're giving back, yet it's in the future. I feel good at least knowing that down the road, I've thought about BC."

Hoffman considers herself lucky to have found the right path early on and is quick to credit those who inspired her, from her cousin Linda Puzin '71, who first brought Hoffman to campus and is now a nurse in Florida, to her professors and classmates at the School of Nursing. It is gratitude for the support and preparation she received at Boston College, Hoffman says, that motivates her to give.

"I feel that BC has done a lot for me," she says. "I went there at a time when, compared to now, it was relatively inexpensive, so I appreciate that today I have a great career and I owe it to BC. This is my chance to give back in any small way that I can."

For more information about planned giving at Boston College, contact Susan Ramsey at 617-552-3328, or visit /alumni/invest/legacygiving.html.