Hail John Hobart ’51, the college’s longest serving class secretary.The 1950s: Rock and roll was on the rise, so were the photocopier, credit card and color TV; Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, and Watson and Crick discovered DNA; Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay scaled Mt. Everest, Stalin died, school desegregation became law, the Cold War heated up, the New York Yankees made it to the World Series (six times), and John Hobart ’51 became a class secretary (before such a thing officially existed).
And he’s never really stopped.
“Being a Presbyterian, although I’m an Episcopalian now, I think it was predestined,” Hobart says. His demeanor is humble and relaxed, emblematic of the mid-20th-century “Davidson gentleman who needs no introduction.” Hobart’s Davidson pedigree runs deep.
Hobart Park on campus is named for his father, Frank Donald Hobart, superintendent of grounds, 1925–61. Hobart grew up on Woodland Street just off Concord Road. He went to high school with Nancy Overcash, who would become Nancy Blackwell and go on to work in alumni relations from 1952 to 2006, known fondly to generations of class secretaries as a cheerful, stern and loving taskmaster.
“I have the greatest admiration for Nancy Blackwell,” Hobart declares unequivocally.
But in the summer of 1950, the alumni office consisted only of John Payne and his secretary Katherine Halyburton. As a student worker, Hobart typed up notes from newspaper clippings, and other less official sources, for publication in the rudimentary alumni communications of the day.
“We didn’t have class notes, as such,” he says.
In time, he found that the people-based, organizational work of gathering and compiling notes was a fitting complement to the skillsets of his career calling.
A business administration major at Davidson, Hobart earned a degree in industrial psychology from N.C. State, worked for a time in industry, and then began his career in the “industrial education centers” that would later form North Carolina’s community college system. He retired in 1990 as a student affairs administrator at Johnston Community College in Smithfield.
Through it all, he kept calling classmates. Snail mail? Ineffective. Social media? Puh! Hobart counts the telephone as the most effective communications technology for the work of a class secretary.
“As long as you’ve got a telephone number on a classmate, you can ask him what’s going on, what’s he been doing, career, family, travels…. It’s a chance to ask them about their life, what they’ve done, where they’ve been, and what’s happened along the way!” he says.
Hobart is diplomatic in describing the editing component of his work: “Sometimes I get a real comprehensive biographical background, and it gives me a chance to sort of condense that and hit the highlights of what they’ve been doing since graduation.”
And he offers a bit of insight, even advice, on the creative process.
“I try to leave out negative stuff and not dwell on things that don’t seem particularly complimentary. Try to just stick to the facts, and then throw in a little touch of humor here and there,” he says.
“Sometimes a reflection about the past seems to be pertinent, but not a whole lot of that. Goodness alive, if you’ve been out of school as long as the class of ’51, there’s a lot of water under the bridge!”