Shirley and Chas Hockett first met in a mathematics course at the University of Michigan. Shirley is Professor Emerita of Mathematics at Ithaca College. Her late husband, Chas, was the Goldwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Linguistics at Cornell University. Together, they were longtime, generous supporters of Ithaca College, and Shirley has continued that tradition. The Hocketts’ sustained support of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance led the college to establish the Shirley and Chas Hockett Chamber Music Concert Series in their honor. Sadly, Chas died shortly after the inaugural concert, in the fall of 2000.
Shirley provided a permanent endowment for the chamber music series and established the Charles F. Hockett Music Scholarship, in memory of Chas. The scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance who is majoring in composition. Members and friends of the Hockett family and others interested in supporting the scholarship continue to make gifts to the Charles F. Hockett Music Scholarship Fund. In recognition of Shirley and Chas’s significant contributions to the School of Music, the recital hall in the James J. Whalen Center for Music is named the Hockett Family Recital Hall.
Music has always played a crucial role in the lives of the Hockett family. Chas listened to, performed, and composed music from early childhood. His compositions include solo and chamber music as well as an opera, Doña Rosita. Each of the Hocketts’ five children studied music while growing up, and two of them, Alpha Walker and Carey Beth Hockett, as well as a son-in-law, David Weiss, are accomplished professional musicians.
Shirley did not play an instrument until she was 57, when she began studying the clarinet. Within a year, she was performing publicly as a member of the Ithaca Concert Band, alongside Chas, who played the bass clarinet. Both were active with the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, and Shirley, who was president of the board of directors from 1979 to 1984, served on the CCO board as director emerita.
After teaching at Cornell for 20 years, Shirley began teaching at Ithaca College in 1966 and was appointed full professor in 1973. Shortly after her retirement in 1991, she was named Professor Emerita of Mathematics by the Ithaca College Board of Trustees. Throughout her career, Shirley was regarded as an exceptional teacher who shared her insights with colleagues and challenged her students. She won several teaching awards and served the college on many faculty committees. She was the founding president of the college’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society. Her first book, How to Prepare for Advanced Placement Examinations: Mathematics, was published by Barron’s Educational Series in 1971. The tenth edition, now titled AP Calculus, with CD-ROM, and coauthored with David Bock, was released in 2010. David Bock also coauthored four previous editions. Shirley published two other examination-oriented books and wrote or coauthored several mathematics textbooks. She was editor of the New York State Mathematics Teachers’ Journal from June 1969 through October 1974. Shirley died in September of 2013.
Chas taught at Cornell University from 1946 to 1982. He was also an adjunct professor of linguistics at Rice University and taught at the Beijing Foreign Studies University in China. Highly regarded in his field, Chas wrote several books and numerous articles on linguistics and anthropology. He was a member and president of the Linguistic Society of America and was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. In 1984 he received the American Anthropological Association’s Distinguished Lecture Award.
Shirley and Chas were major supporters of the campaign to build the James J. Whalen Center for Music, which opened in 1999. Dean Arthur Ostrander of the School of Music, in announcing the college’s tributes to the Hocketts, said, “Given their love of chamber music, it seemed most appropriate to establish the Shirley and Chas Hockett Chamber Music Concert Series as a lasting testament to their support of Ithaca College. We are also privileged to be able to show our appreciation by naming the recital hall for the Hockett family.”