In memory: Edward ‘Ed’ A. Hoover

Editor’s note: Additional coverage of University Distinguished Professor Ed Hoover’s legacy are planned once celebrations of his life are scheduled. View his tribute wall here.

Edward “Ed” A. Hoover passed away peacefully on March 1, with family at his side.

Ed was born on November 18, 1942, to Marian Brunn Hoover and Edward Hoover in Chicago, Illinois. He spent his childhood exploring the Near North neighborhood of Chicago, around Wrigley Field, the home of his beloved Cubs, and not far from Lake Michigan, living out many Hardy Boys-like adventures. His home above the McKillip Animal Hospital, home to Buzzy the McCaw, undoubtedly imprinted his eventual career choice. While the kennel of barking dogs below his bedroom did not bother him at the time, it may have led to his adulthood flight-fight response upon hearing a dog barking perhaps neighborhoods away. Ed had fond childhood memories of his summers at Grandma Brunn’s house in Berwyn with his sister, Sandy, and beloved cousins Pat, Mary, Judy, Susan, and Bill.

Ed attended Our Lady of Mt Carmel and Lane Technical schools. Upon graduation he trained for one year at Illinois Institute of Technology, intending to become an architect. After determining his artistic visions were best expressed in two versus three dimensions, Ed took his curiosity to the University of Illinois, where he received his bachelor’s then Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1967. He received his MS and PhD in 1970 at Ohio State University, completing a residency and board certification in veterinary pathology in 1972. He launched his research career by studying viruses of cats, focusing on feline leukemia virus.

In 1981, Ed became head of the Department of Pathology at Colorado State University and moved to Fort Collins with his former wife, Jane Hoover, and their three children. Over his 40-plus-year career at CSU, he built the tradition of multidisciplinary biomedical research training for veterinarians. His laboratory conducted seminal work in feline virology and HIV research. In collaboration with colleague Jim Mullins, Ed’s lab developed the first successful vaccine for feline leukemia virus, which is now used worldwide to immunize millions of cats against leukemia. More recently, his work on prion diseases uncovered key details about transmission and detection of chronic wasting disease, an epidemic in deer and other animals. In recognition of this work, Ed was named one of twelve University Distinguished Professors at Colorado State University in 2004, elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, National Academy of Inventors in 2017, and received numerous other awards.

But Ed considered his most treasured accomplishment to be mentoring 27 graduate students, mostly DVM-PhDs, whose inquisitiveness and creativity he nurtured. Many of Ed’s former mentees are leading today’s veterinary medical research, including more than half a dozen who hold leadership roles at CSU. In addition to his own students, Ed also helped secure grants that funded post-graduate training for over three dozen individuals, and he was instrumental in CSU’s combined DVM-PhD training program which has received national recognition.

These accolades illustrate Ed’s tremendous impact in the scientific community but do not capture the nature of his life force. His unique, relentless curiosity included many topics: the beauty and form of structures, the ways art and science intersect, human nature vs. nurture, how words develop meanings, for example. To a person, those who have known Ed recall how a conversation with him would inevitably wander from the initial topic into a cavernous maze of associations, intriguing and often humorous. His obsessions were too numerous to count: trees, very specific coffee preparation, daily exercise regimens, correct grammar (preferably with wordplay), beautifully addressed package return labels, low-fat meals, fashionable and/or comfortable clothes within his color wheel, dental hygiene, automobile type and maintenance, shoes (for himself and family members), ample stores of tape in well-organized boxes, a love of ocean surf yet a fear of drowning, watering the hell out of countless plants, adjusting light and sound levels, finding the perfect seat in the restaurant, and optimization of life in all ways; for this, he earned the affectionate nickname “Mr. Picky-Poo” from stepdaughter Sarah.

After his family and friends, Ed’s next greatest love was trees. He planted well over 100 trees in the foothills of Loveland at his Spring Glade home where he lived with his wife Sue and three stepchildren. Most of these plantings required pickaxe and pry bar excavation. He would water his “forest” for hours, and when preparing to move from Spring Glade to Fort Collins in 2017, he painstakingly labeled each tree to indicate its species and type. Ed spent hours at Fort Collins and Creekside Nurseries, looking at the latest selection and talking to the nursery’s tree specialists, and was rarely able to resist buying yet another. In his later years, Ed developed a particular fondness for oaks, planting more than a dozen at his home in Applewood (on Apple Drive), and sprouting acorns in an experiment designed to determine if the floating characteristics of these seeds correlated with germination (the results were inconclusive).

Ed was famous for his doodles. He never attended a seminar without a particular type of pen and notebook. The uninitiated would think that Ed was taking copious notes, but those in the know realized he was penning more of his characteristic abstract yet geometric line drawings. Each of these drawings was fascinating, and different than all others. Repeating characters included stick figure Ed, Noseman, and of course, cats. His drawing talent reflected his interests in space, patterns, lines of sight, and the absurd or unexpected.

During his last months of life, Ed embraced new loves: scrambled eggs with cheese and yolks, ham, Jeni’s ice cream, visitors in his home and by his bedside—and he glowed in the love of friends and family. In particular, he relished the visits of his children and stepchildren, particularly when those visits coincided. He realized the beauty of life that is separate from physical ability, no longer spending hours at the gym, in his office, or on his bicycle, and he cherished his connections with life.

Ed passed away at Pathways Inpatient Hospice in Fort Collins on March 1, after an eight-month course of lung cancer. He was predeceased by his mother, Marian, his father, Edward, and brother-in-law Tom Clark. He is survived by his wife, Sue VandeWoude, his sister, Sandra Clark (Arlington Heights, IL), children Susan (Kurt Griffin; Sioux Falls, SD), Matthew (Robin Lloyd; Chico, CA), and Karen (Bart Hammerly; Vancouver, WA) Hoover; stepchildren Eric (Ashley Kipp; Williamsburg, VA), Eston (Boulder, CO), and Sarah (Anthony Alvarez; Costa Rica) Schweickart; sisters-in-law Gail VandeWoude (Orlando, FL), Cynthia VandeWoude (Grand Rapids, MI), Alice (Peter) Fens, nieces Maureen (David) Resac (Mt. Prospect, IL), Megan (George) Leone (Palatine, IL), Kathleen (William) Ferguson (Chicago, IL), grandnieces Caitlin Resac and Sophia Leone, and grandnephews Brayden Resac and Benjamin Leone.

Springtime celebrations are being planned to honor Ed’s life and spirit. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations in Ed’s memory be directed to Pathways Hospice,, 305 Carpenter Road, Fort Collins CO, 80525. Memorials to honor Ed’s life’s work are being established at Colorado State University.