News & Updates

Believing in Bradley

Gerald Hoeft ’60 MSME ’64 and his wife Phyllis Hoeft ’71 believe Bradley University’s commitment to teaching sets it apart from larger research schools in educating and preparing students for successful careers.

Jerry, who holds degrees in mechanical engineering, remembers talking with friends attending other universities. “They found it difficult to believe I met with my professors one on one and the amount of individual attention I received.”

Jerry’s favorite professor at Bradley was Dr. Max Wessler ’52, professor of mechanical engineering. In addition to admiring him as a teacher and mentor, Jerry remembers seeing Wessler and his family at church and being invited to Sunday dinners with them. It was the Sunday conversations and other out-of-classroom discussions with Wessler that influenced Jerry’s development as a person and engineer. 

The Hoefts want to ensure that future generations benefit from a similar Bradley experience and have included the University in their estate planning. The Hoefts’ gift will benefit the mechanical engineering department. “We realize it’s a challenge for the University to keep up with trends and stay ahead of the competition. It takes finances to do that,” Jerry says.

Jerry accepted a position at Caterpillar Inc. after graduation and credits a great deal of his professional success to the education and training he received at Bradley. He began and ended his career in research and development, and in between, he worked in various plants and corporate headquarters in manufacturing engineering.

Phyllis was a non-traditional student, enrolling at Bradley after the Hoefts were married. She had graduated from Saint Francis School of Medicine’s nursing program and decided to take advantage of the tuition remission benefit available since Jerry taught evening math classes at Bradley. “I started out on a whim, but then I learned they would accept 48 hours of my nurse’s training toward graduation. I got serious and started taking required nursing classes. I worked part-time at Proctor Hospital and went to evening school.”

After graduating, Phyllis taught for five years at Saint Francis before Jerry was transferred with Caterpillar to Davenport, Iowa.

The Hoefts moved to Tucson, Arizona, after Jerry’s retirement 10 years ago. The caring and nurturing environment that Jerry thrived in at Bradley now has Jerry helping others through volunteer work at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. He describes the museum as a cross between a zoo and a botanical garden, as it includes plants and animals indigenous to the Sonoran Desert. Jerry especially enjoys putting on a glove and taking hawks and other raptors onto the grounds so people can see these birds “up close and personal.”

Despite their new life in Arizona, the Hoefts will never forget the impact Bradley has had on their lives.  Phyllis says, “We appreciate the education we received and want Bradley to continue to excel in the education it is providing. We are pleased to help future generations of Bradley students.”