By Abby Zimmer
The rugby players call him “Caveman.” Mere acquaintances mistake him for an actor. Either way, many students don’t realize he is actually 30 years old.
Dustan Hoffman, junior at Saint Mary’s University, could tell anyone countless stories about his life, but here is what I can tell you after 20 minutes.
Hoffman grew up in the Green Bay, Wis., area with his mom, brother and sister. Life was not easy: money was tight, and he lived in 18 different houses by the time he was 17 years old. Although his mom was on welfare and their family had food stamps, they found themselves needing to live in homeless shelters twice. Despite these difficulties, Hoffman was able to stay in the same school district by using aunts’ or uncles’ addresses.
Once he graduated from high school, Hoffman found himself working (mostly in construction) nine months out the year and traveling the United States, Mexico and Canada the remaining three months.
One of Hoffman’s famous stories begins with a job that lasted one day in Colorado. After realizing the company was not one for which he wanted to work, Hoffman drove off, only for his car to break down at the edge of Castle Rock, Colo.
Because he needed a place to stay, he went to the nearby park where he was able to find a cave. Hoffman lived in this cave for an entire month, biking to and from a new job he found the next day, with only the Bible to read at night.
After five years of working and traveling, Hoffman moved to Winona to live with childhood friends Joe and Andy Cochran, sons of Dr. Philip and Michelle Cochran, both professors at SMU.
“What really attracted me to Winona was fly fishing,” said Hoffman. “It’s my passion in life.”
Once he got to Winona, though, Philip and Michelle inspired Hoffman to go back to school.
“They convinced me I could do it,” said Hoffman. “I’m still trying to convince myself.”
Hoffman took classes at Southeast Technical College part-time for one year to have undergraduate classes to show SMU that he was still college material after taking a seven-year break from schooling.
Now Hoffman is a biology major at SMU. He works 25-30 hours a week, while also remaining involved in SMU’s Hellfish rugby team.
Once Hoffman graduates, he plans on entering an accelerated nursing program and moving into the mountains out west.
“If I could share one piece of advice with SMU students,” said Hoffman, “it would be to never take anything for granted. Be grateful.”
Claims to fame:
* Hoffman biked from Green Bay to Winona (207 miles) in one day.
* He has traveled to 47 states, all except Florida, Alabama and Hawaii.
* Hoffman is familiar with 27 kinds of edible wild plants and can create fire by simply rubbing sticks together
* He has twice donated to Locks of Love, totaling 27 inches over 6 years, after starting from a shaved head.
[Editor’s Note: Do you know anyone who has done something commendable for the SMU or Winona community, is an excellent leader, athlete, or artist, or has an interesting story that should be told? If so, contact the Cardinal staff at firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, your name, your contact information and why they should be featured in the Cardinal spotlight.]