Palmer Hotz, Alumnus and Longtime U of A Supporter, Passes Away

The Palmer Hotz family at the UofA in May 2018 attending Olivia Hotz's graduation. Back row, from left: Marie Hotz, Mary Hogen, Adri Vitaterna, Olivia Vitaterna, Palmer Hotz, Jon Hogen; front row: Joe Vitaterna and Martha Vitaterna.
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The Palmer Hotz family at the UofA in May 2018 attending Olivia Hotz's graduation. Back row, from left: Marie Hotz, Mary Hogen, Adri Vitaterna, Olivia Vitaterna, Palmer Hotz, Jon Hogen; front row: Joe Vitaterna and Martha Vitaterna.

Henry Palmer Hotz of Foster City, California, a retired senior scientist and professor, University of Arkansas alumnus, and generous university benefactor, passed away on Feb. 18 at the age of 93.

Palmer Hotz received a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Arkansas and a doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis. His wife, Marie Brase Hotz, also holds a doctorate from Washington University. They have three children — Henry Brase Hotz, Mary Hotz Hogen and Martha Hotz Vitaterna — as well as five grandchildren.

In 2015, the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A created an endowed dean's chair thanks to a gift from Palmer and Marie Hotz and a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The chair was the first of its kind in the college and was named in honor of Palmer Hotz's father, Henry G. Hotz. Henry Hotz was a member of the university faculty for 24 years, including 11 years as dean of the College of Education.

In addition to this gift, the Hotzes had previously established the Hartman Hotz Lectures Series in honor of Palmer Hotz's brother, who was an honor graduate of the university and later went on to earn a law degree from Yale before returning to Fayetteville to join the faculty in the School of Law.

"Jane and I were so sorry to learn of the passing of Dr. Palmer Hotz," said David Gearhart, former UA chancellor. "Both Marie and Palmer were extraordinary academics who love and continue to love the University of Arkansas. Their astute understanding of the great importance of private philanthropy has had a measurable impact on the University of Arkansas. They were extraordinarily generous to the university. They are truly a family of educators."

The Gearharts purchased the Hotz's former family home — where Palmer grew up — in 1998.

The house was positioned on an unfinished street when his family first moved there. The Hotzes and a neighboring family named it Razorback Road.

"When we were doing some renovations of the house we found a Hotz family scrapbook in one of the closets with memorabilia that dated to the 1930s. We felt a keen connection to Palmer and Marie," Gearhart said. "Palmer was so excited to receive it, and it brought back many fond memories of life in Fayetteville. He will be greatly missed."

In 2017, Michael Hevel, head of the Department of Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and Communication Disorders, interviewed Palmer Hotz, who credited his interest in physics to his father's role in running the summer school for teachers at the University of Arkansas in the 1930s. Henry Hotz recruited master teachers through the state to provide continuing education for teachers, and students were needed for demonstration courses. He drafted sons Palmer and Hartman to participate in the courses. As a 10-year-old, Palmer Hotz became fascinated by the lessons of a talented science teacher.

Palmer Hotz taught physics until the early 1970s when the family relocated to California and he started working in what became Silicon Valley.

On a recent phone call, Vitaterna enjoyed recalling her family's academic history, including some tidbits of family lore. She said when her father was born (on Oct. 17, 1925) in Fayetteville's city hospital, many of the nurses were his mother's former students. The nurses allegedly put a sign on his crib identifying him as their professor's baby — "Miss Palmer's baby" — implying she was an unwed mother, much to the dismay of the very proper Henry Hotz.

Another snippet of family lore revolves around her grandfather being hired at the University of Arkansas.

Palmer's parents, Henry and Stella Hotz, met when they both served on the faculty at the University of Arkansas. Stella started teaching home economics at the university in the fall of 1918. She was the first woman hired as a full professor at the U of A. Family lore holds that President John C. Futrall stopped her near present-day Vol Walker Hall with two resumés in his hand and asked her advice on which person to hire. She suggested Henry Hotz, who started as a faculty member in secondary education in the fall of 1919. After a nearly five-year courtship, Henry and Stella married.

In 1964, Palmer's parents' contributions to campus were recognized with the naming of Hotz Hall. In 2013, Hotz Hall was rededicated and became a living space for honors students. His daughters, Mary Hotz Hogen, and Martha Hotz Vitaterna, attended the rededication, along with two of his granddaughters, Melanie Vitaterna and Olivia Vitaterna. Olivia enrolled at University of Arkansas the next year and graduated in May 2018. Palmer Hotz was able to visit the university to attend his granddaughter's graduation.

Although he suffered from Parkinson's disease in later years, Palmer Hotz continued to pursue his life-long loves for international travel — including an expedition to Antarctica — and music. He was especially fond of opera. 

Because of their philanthropy, the Hotzes are recognized in the Towers of Old Main, a giving society for the university's most generous benefactors. They are also members of the Chancellor's Society, life members of the Arkansas Alumni Association and are recognized as Thoroughbreds for their consecutive years of giving to the university.

Memorials may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.


Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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