In Memoriam

Donald Hoffman, Ph.D., ABFT.

It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of Dr Donald Hoffman.  He checked himself into the hospital in mid-March with flu-like symptoms, and lost his battle with COVID-19 a short time later.


I was privileged to call Don my friend, as we worked together for many years at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  We must have had hundreds of meals together, both in the faculty dining room, and more frequently after work at local restaurants around the neighborhood.  We also rode together to and from the NEAFS Annual Meetings every year from 2004 to 2019.  Don enjoyed every NEAFS meeting, and frequently signed up for the toxicology-related workshops immediately preceding the Annual Meetings.  I’ve included just a few of the many photographs I took of my friend Don during NEAFS 2019.


Dr Hoffman was an accomplished chemist and toxicologist, having received his BA degree in chemistry from New York University and his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Columbia University.  He worked at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) as a forensic toxicologist for 27 years, and continued in forensic toxicology as a private consultant right until the virus took him from us.  Don was passionate about the field, and often answered calls from attorneys as we were dining.  I was always amazed at how detailed and technical his answers were, with zero preparation or advance knowledge of whom was calling or what they were calling about. 


Dr Hoffman began teaching forensic toxicology and pharmacology at John Jay College 44 years ago, impacting over 3,000 students in his career there.  During that time, he also mentored many students on their research projects, and in 2006 was recognized for his contributions by the Forensic Science Society with an award “In Recognition of Outstanding and Dedicated Support to the Society and the John Jay Community”.  To further honor his dedication and contributions, his family is establishing The Donald B. Hoffman Memorial Scholarship in Toxicology to benefit students at John Jay College who have chosen the toxicology specialization. 


In addition to co-authoring dozens of articles on forensic tox during his career, Dr Hoffman wrote a chapter on postmortem toxicology in Wiley & Sons’ Forensic Chemistry Handbook.  He was a voracious reader of toxicological material and always strove to remain current in his field.  I would often drop by Don’s office unexpectedly, only to find him reading a journal article on advances in instrumentation techniques, sample preparation, metabolites, new synthetic drug manufacture, and the list goes on.


Don always enjoyed a good meal, dessert (hold the whipped cream), two cups of coffee and finish off the session with a big cigar.  These were his most relished moments.  The 2019 NEAFS President’s Banquet was particularly suited to his favorite indulgences with its “Roaring Twenties” theme.  Fortuitously, Don found a cigar shop with walk-in humidor right around the corner from the meeting hotel, where he purchased the cigars used to complete the period theme costume.  Always considerate and kind, Don bought the cigar that I am “smoking” as well.


The forensic toxicology community lost a valuable resource, an exceptional scientist, a dedicated toxicologist, and I have lost a dear friend - Donald Hoffman.

Peter Diaczuk