ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
James F. Hoy
1983 - James F. Hoy
Some have called him a modern-day Renaissance man. And though he is better known throughout the central plains as a folklorist and singer of folk songs, Dr. Jim Hoy is equally at home discussing Chaucer and his academic specialty, medieval English drama, as he is the finer points of the history of cowboy boots.
While it might seem there is no connection, Hoy disagrees.
“The images of the cowboy and the knight of the middle ages are very much alike,” he said. “Both are horsemen, both are very individualistic types, and both have been idealized in the popular mind. They are the folk heroes of their respective cultures.”
Hoy was reared on a ranch near Cassoday, Kansas. Growing up, he learned to work cattle, break horses, and rodeo, where he roped calves, rode saddle broncs, and bulldogged steers.
Rodeo is just a part of Dr. Hoy’s wild west resume. He has explored ranching cultures not only in America but in other parts of the world as well, from the drover roads of Scotland to cattle stations in Australia to estancias in Argentina. He has published over a dozen books, most of them dealing to one degree or another with the folklife of ranching. Flint Hills Cowboys was named a Kansas Notable Book, and Cowboy’s Lament received both a Will Rogers Medallion and the Founders Award from Westerners International. His article on cattle guards won the 1981 Seaton Award for nonfiction published in Kansas Quarterly.
Hoy has spread the cowboy folklore message both in his classes at Emporia State as well as far away from the Great Plains. In 1982, Hoy was invited to address the Folklore Society at the University of London. In 1988, he again lectured in England at the University of Durham and at the Institute for Grass and Animal Production. He has also spoken about the American cowboy to audiences in Germany and, more recently, in Australia and New Zealand.
In 1989, Hoy was invited to participate in the first National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration in Lubbock, Texas. He received an American Cowboy Culture award from that organization in 1999. He was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2004.
In addition to terms as president of the Kansas Historical Society and the American Association of Australian Literary Studies, he has also served as chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Closer to home, he has been a member of the Kansas Humanities Council Speakers Bureau since its founding in 1985.
In the university classroom he notes that it takes perseverance and diligence to teach. “Teaching is a profession that requires constant effort toward a goal you can finally never fully reach,” he said in his Roe R. Cross statement. “Students are partners in that effort. I try to set a good example for them and let them know I don’t expect them to do as I say, but as I do.” His classroom philosophy is that teaching requires constant effort and renewal: “If you start coasting, you can go in only one direction: downhill.”
Hoy attended the University of Kansas and was graduated cum laude with a bachelors of science in English Education from Kansas State University in 1961. From 1963 to 1965 he earned a Master’s of English Literature from Emporia State University (Kansas State Teachers College at the time) by enrolling in summer school and night classes while teaching eighth grade English at El Dorado Junior High School.
In 1965-66 he was an instructor in English at KSTC. In 1966, with the encouragement of ESU professor Charles Walton, he went to the University of Missouri, where he received his Ph.D. in 1970. His area of study was medieval and renaissance English literature. Hoy was a visiting summer professor at Idaho State University in 1975 and has taught continuing education courses for the University of Kansas. He served as chair of the division of English during the 1980s.
In 1992 Hoy and graduate student Mike Marchand received a $16,000 grant from the Kansas State Historical Society to survey, map, and document all manmade structures in the area near Middle creek and Diamond Creek, which covers 171,520 acres in Chase, Marion, and Morris Counties. One result was the successful nomination of the Whitney Ranch near Hymer to the National Register of Historic Places.
He is a founding member ESU’s Center for Great Plains Studies, which he has directed since 2003. Recent projects at the Center include a continuing search for the work of pioneer Kansas photographer F. M. Steele, a documentary film about the 1867 stone house built at the south edge of Emporia by Welsh immigrant Richard Howe, and establishing the Flint Hills Collection at the Center for Great Plains Studies.