Dickens by the Year

Featuring Trude Hoffacker.

June 21, 2019

Trude (middle) with friends Barbara Keller (left) and Beth Penney (right).

Trude Hoffacker has had the pleasure of watching the Dickens Project and Dickens Universe grow into what it is today. Small wine and cheese gatherings became grand celebrations, and the once small-scale Victorian tea became a staple of the Universe experience.

Trude has made Dickens Project history as one of the few people to attend the Dickens Universe every year since the program was founded. A high school teacher in Mountain View, CA at the time, Trude first discovered the Universe through a pamphlet that she received in her school mailbox. It had been a tough year—the high school that Trude taught at was on the brink of closing—but Dickens never failed to brighten her mood, so she decided to attend.

Trude’s favorite aspect of the Universe is that the participants are avid and perceptive readers. “It attracts a mixture of people regardless of age or profession,” claims Trude, “and they are some of the most interesting people that I have ever met.” Even though she and her fellow Universe attendees may not keep in touch throughout the year, every summer they pick up right where they left off. 

Nearly all of Dickens's novels have been featured more than once since the conference's inception in 1981. Trude notes that every time she revisits his writings, she reads the works differently and always notices something new. The themes are timeless and always seem to speak to current events. Because of this, it is impossible to pick a “favorite novel.” Trude also admires the historicism of Dickens and believes that the way he lived through the industrial revolution is similar to the way we are currently living through the technological revolution. “If he can get through that, then we can get through this,” says Trude.

In her spare time, Trude enjoys being in nature, gardening, cooking, and attending the San Francisco Symphony, another program she regularly supports. She is a retired high school teacher and highly values the education of youth. Trude still regularly tutors high school English students and keeps in touch with past students, one of whom she has even begun a Dickens reading club with.

Trude has chosen to name the Dickens Project in her estate plans because she “wants to see it last forever” for both herself and everyone else impacted by the program. “I have met so many interesting people in my years of attending and I don’t want that to end.”