Suffolk mourns ‘Trip’ Hobbs

Published 10:23 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

English class with Gelon “Trip” Hobbs III was engaging and it was where students developed as writers, former students and colleagues said recently.

Hobbs died May 7 in Chapel Hill, N.C., but the Suffolk High School graduate is still revered by many former students, colleagues and family.

“Trip was always a sensitive and empathetic person, and he was very caring,” said Hobbs’ older sister, Kathy Hobbs. “Though he was kind of tough when he was an athlete.”

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While at Suffolk High, Hobbs lettered in tennis, football and basketball before heading to Hampden-Sydney College to receive his Bachelor of Arts in English. His athletics continued at Hampden-Sydney with the rugby team, and he was elected the captain.

Hobbs was a decorated athlete, but he spent time focusing, and succeeding, in his education.

“He really became a very good student at Hampden-Sydney. They made a scholar out of him because they demanded so much,” Kathy said. “He really respected the curriculum and the professors.”

While he was at Hampden-Sydney, he received the Garnet Poetry Prize, and Hobbs continued his education at Old Dominion University to receive a master’s degree in education.

Hobbs spent 18 years as an educator at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, teaching honors English and coaching a slew of sports — football, golf, basketball, tennis, lacrosse and cross country.

Hobbs had many accomplishments as an educator in Suffolk, but former students, now colleagues, remember him for his distinct teaching style.

“He was very student-centered and engaging in class. He made you think and developed you into a good writer,” said former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student Michelle Horton. “I always looked forward to his class, and I felt that he was so interesting.”

During the ‘80s, teachers typically lectured students while they took notes, but Hobbs preferred engaging with his students in his honors English class. During most classes, the students’ desks were in a circle, and Hobbs could be seen sitting on his desk and engaging students in discussion.

“It was a very informal classroom setting, yet everyone respected him,” Horton said. “He was one of those people that you held on every word he said. He created a respectful environment.”

“He would try to bring the literature to life and he welcomed our opinion as long as we could support it,” said former student Wendy Blausey. “You had your choice to speak up in class. He was phenomenal.”

Naturally, during his tenure at Nansemond-Suffolk, he eventually became the Upper School Director of Admissions, and, given his English background, he established “The Spectrum,” the school’s first literary magazine.

Hobbs moved to the Outer Banks and worked for the Dare County Schools in 1997. His first position was as assistant principal of Manteo High School, and prior to his death he was the school system’s chief operations officer.

“I will miss him always being there for me and for my sister (Elizabeth Hobbs) as the wise one about business affairs and counseling us on personal problems. He always had great advice, and he was extremely funny. He had a personality that drew people to him,” Kathy said. “I’ll miss him, everything about him.”

A memorial will be held at 1 p.m. June 3, 2018, at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Twiford Funeral Home, Manteo, is assisting the family with arrangements. Condolences may be expressed at www.TwifordFH.com.