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September 7, 2016
In the World

Caving Expert Passes Away

Remembering a Life Devoted to Learning

Nationally known caving expert and Professor of Biology Horton H. Hobbs III passed away peacefully in his home in Fleetwood, N.C., on Aug. 29, 2016. 

Born Dec. 17, 1944, in Gainesville, Fla., Hobbs III was the son of the late Horton H. Hobbs Jr. and Georgia Cates (Blunt) Hobbs.  He earned his B.A. in biology from the University of Richmond in 1967, his M.S. in zoology from Mississippi State University in 1969, and a Ph.D. in zoology/limnology from Indiana University in 1973.  In 1976, he joined the faculty at Wittenberg, spending nearly four decades teaching courses in biology, ecology and limnology, and sharing his deep passion for caving with his students.

During his tenure at Wittenberg, Hobbs served as chair of the department of biology and authored more than 225 professional articles and delivered more than 100 professional papers.  In 1977, he founded the Caving Club, which later became the Wittenberg University Speleological Society (WUSS), and served as the club’s advisor.  He retired from Wittenberg in 2012.

Hobbs’ interest in cave ecosystems developed in graduate school and led him to study in a variety of places in the United States, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Mexico, several Caribbean islands, Central America, Eastern and Western Europe, and Canada.  Within a year of arriving at Wittenberg, he began to explore caves closer to home, surveying approximately 125 caves in Ohio during his career.  Noting that Hobbs “almost single-handedly resurrected cave research in Ohio,” the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) presented him with the Cardinal Award in 2007 in recognition of his efforts to preserve the state’s caves.

He was particularly interested in how cave-dwelling organisms adapt and evolve, and he made certain to include Wittenberg students in his research, spending summers with them exploring Ohio’s caves and documenting the plants, animals and microbes living within them.

Outside of Wittenberg, Hobbs was active in a variety of professional organizations.  He was a Fellow of the Explorers Club, a Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the National Speleological Society, a Fellow and Past-President of the Ohio Academy of Science, and member of the Cave Research Foundation. He served on the Boards of Directors/Trustees of the American Cave Conservation Association, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, the Karst Waters Institute, and the Ohio Academy of Science.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 41 years, Susan Krantz Hobbs, in 2009. Survivors include his two children, Heather (Mark) Killion of Avon, Ind., and Horton H. (Lori) Hobbs IV, class of 1997, of Springfield; his companion and friend of the past four years, Linda Marsh of Fleetwood, N.C.; four grandchildren, Andrew and Patrick Killion and Caitlyn and Courtney Hobbs; a sister, Nina (Tom) Singleton of Brattleboro, Vermont; and several nieces and nephews.

A service in celebration of Hobbs’ life will be held at a later date.

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A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for "Best Classroom Experience" and 15th in the category "Professors Get High Marks" in the 2011 edition of Princeton's annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of "Most Accessible Professors." Wittenberg appeared in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges in 2013 and again in 2015. Additionally, Wittenberg currently has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any other four-year institution in the state, and has been recognized nationally for excellence in service and athletics.

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