Grand Rapids Community College honors Hoffius as Distinguished Alumnus



By Cynthia Price

Legal News

Dirk Hoffius has established a reputation as both a skilled lawyer and a tremendous contributor to the community over his adult life.

But many who know the Varnum attorney may not realize that, before he graduated from Colgate University and received his Juris Doctor from University of Virginia School of Law, Hoffius spent a few years at Grand Rapids Community College.

“I went to Brown University and started out in advanced physics,” Hoffius says. “I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I didn’t party excessively, but still I 
didn’t do well and was told not to come back.

“At Grand Rapids Junior College, as it was called then, I was trying to find myself. I keep thinking, if the Dirk of 1962 could see where I am today, with this recognition by the community college, he would be amazed.”

Hoffius says that he told the crowd gathered on April 29 when he received his honor that he owes a debt to one of his GRCC teachers, who put him on the spot by asking a question that made him “look dumb.”

He explains that that strengthened his resolve to do well. “I vowed I was never going to be caught unprepared again. I was successful at JC and I transferred to Colgate, and then went on to get my law degree.”

The award-winning estate planning attorney, who has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America® since 1989 and in Michigan Super Lawyers since 2011, has spent his entire career at Varnum.

Hoffius is a member of the Estate Planning Practice Group and helps clients across the spectrum of estate plans from basic to the most sophisticated, including strategic planning to help people reach their own goals and objectives through their estates.

He has displayed his commitment to the legal profession over the years by serving as a trustee for the Grand Rapids Bar Association, and chair of the State Bar of Michigan’s Probate and Estate Planning Council. A fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel since 1988, Hoffius also served on the State Bar’s Judicial Crossroads Task Force.

Among other awards, he received the State of Michigan Community Foundation Philan-thropy Award in 2013. 

Hoffius is also the author of a very useful cookbook, “Just Good Food for Good Friends,” which, he notes, has sold 4500 to 5000 copies, remarkable for a publication that is not distributed through Amazon.

He is starting a line of spices called Dirk’s Good Seasonings, which correspond to recipes in the book. He plans to follow the same distribution scheme as he did with “Just Good Food,” and have the spices available through such local vendors as Papers Plus and Art of the Table.

The story behind the cookbook is somewhat sad, involving his mother suffering a stroke and being at Blodgett Hospital, which was across the street from his home. After visiting his wife, Stuart Hoffius — who was a well-respected judge for the 17th Circuit Court from 1960 to 1998 — would join Dirk Hoffius and his
wife Vickie for dinner.

What makes that even sadder is that Vickie herself passed away in May of 2014.

Hoffius says, “I recently went to Blodgett to see a client who was in the same room Vickie was in. At first I was stunned, but then I started to feel actually

In her memory, Vickie’s Garden was created at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and a fund established to pay for its maintenance.

He remembers that his wife always urged him to give, both of his time and his treasure, to worthwhile projects in the community, for example the Urban
Institute for Contemporary Arts. “Vickie and I did not have children, and one of the things that resonated so much with young people has been the UICA,” Hoffius notes.

Those contributions have been among many in the arts, including serving on the boards of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Frederik Meijer Gar-dens, and Kendall College of Art and Design, which he chaired.

“My father was chair of the Calder committee,” he says. “When I got to Varnum I started the art committee.”

In addition to parental influences, he dates his passion for the arts from his stint at Grand Rapids Community College. “I got interested in building a cottage — which we finally did in 1993 — and was gathering all the information about how to do it while I was there. So design has always been interesting to me.

Then when I got to Colgate the first class I took was Music and the Visual Arts. It showed how everything clicked at the same time, art and architecture and music, and that really fascinated me,” he says.

A sampling of additional boards he has served include the Grand Rapids Downtown Mar-ket, the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and the  Grand Rapids Community Foun-dation, the last two of which he chaired.

Hoffius called the graduation ceremony where he received the award “phenomenal,” and noted that the organizers created a video of him that was shown instead of a speech. “I can see why they use a video rather than let somebody like me get up and talk,” he jokes. “But they really did a wonderful job with it.”