Born in San Bernardino, California on 21 March 1916 and spent his youth in southern California. Married Helen Kaatz in 1938 and had two sons, Robert and Ronald. Hoffmeister spent his first two years of undergraduate work at San Bernardino Junior College and then received his A.B. from the University of California-Berkeley in 1938. He originally intended to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and go into medicine. However, after a course in vertebrate zoology taught by Joseph Grinnell and E. Raymond Hall, he decided to switch to mammalogy. He remained at Berkeley and did his graduate studies under Grinnell, completing his M.A. in 1940 and his Ph.D. in 1944. During his graduate work at Berkeley he served as Technical Assistant and Research Assistant in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
In 1944 he was appointed Assistant Professor and Assistant Curator of Modern vertebrates at the University of Kansas. In 1946 moved to the University of Illinois as Assistant Professor and Assistant Curator of the Museum of Natural History, where he remained for the rest of his career. He became Associate Professor in 1956 and full Professor in 1959. He was promoted to Curator, with responsibility of Director, in the Museum of Natural History in 1948 and given the official tile of Director of the Museum in 1964. Upon his retirement in 1984 he was appointed Emeritus Director and Professor. He was active in many scholarly societies and held numerous offices including President of the American Society of Mammalogists from 1964-1966, President of the Midwest Museums Conference, Chairman of the Zoology Section and Councillor of the Illinois State Academy of Science, Councillor of the American Association of Museums, and Associate Editor of The American Midland Naturalist. In addition to his research, administration, and teaching, he served as chairman of 14 Ph.D. and 18 master’s students.
Although Dr. Hoffmeister’s research dealt primarily with the distribution and taxonomy of mammals, with an emphasis on Arizona and Illinois, he published papers on topics ranging from life history and ecology, to pelage coloration, to mammalian anatomy. He also authored a number of semipopular and technical books on mammals, including Mammals/ A Guide to Familiar American Species with H. S. Zim, Handbook of Illinois Mammals with C. O. Mohr, Fieldbook of Illinois Mammals with M. O. Mohr, Mammals of the Grand Canyon, Mammals of Illinois, and the monumental Mammals of Arizona.
Biogeographic information from: Layne J.N., and R.S.Hoffman. 1994. Presidents. Pp. 22-70 in Seventy-Five Years of Mammalogy (1919-1994). The American Society of Mammalogists, Special Publication No. 11.