Joe Ben Hoyle in his office

50 years later, Joe Hoyle's passion for teaching burns bright

June 4, 2021


Joe Hoyle wants to know: What’s the best book you’ve ever read? This might be a quirky question for an accounting class, but the longtime associate professor at the Robins School of Business sees his role going beyond conveying the subject matter to helping students hone critical thinking skills. 

“I want them to understand that life is more than just a job,” he said. “And I want them to make a judgment, too.”

Hoyle has given this immense thought since he began teaching 50 years ago. His blog on getting the most from students has garnered more than half a million page views. He’s written hundreds of posts. Numerous YouTube videos feature his familiar North Carolina accent speaking directly to the viewer: introducing chapters, sharing insights and, of course, asking questions. In 2019 he was installed as a Robins Teaching Fellow in the Robins School of Business. Fellows emphasize the importance of teaching and serve as role models and mentors for other business school faculty. 


Every semester you’ll have students that just amaze you.
headshot of Joe Ben Hoyle
Joe Ben Hoyle
Associate Professor of Accounting

Formative experiences kindled his passion for teaching. Hoyle grew up in the hills of the Tar Heel State. In the 1960s, he went from a rural high school with a graduating class of 99 to the bustle of college.

“That transition was extremely difficult for me,” he remembered. “I wasn’t sure I could major in anything because I wasn’t sure I knew enough about anything.” During the first semester of sophomore year, he took an accounting course and realized he had a knack for it. 

No professor stood out, though. “I had decent teachers, but nobody that inspired me,” Hoyle admitted. “The lack of a really good teacher in college to mentor me, to guide me — that influenced me more than anything else.” He doesn’t want any student to ever emerge from his classroom feeling robbed of a college education. 

“I do think it’s an important aspect of college that you have teachers who try to get you to move forward,” he said. “What you really want is for them to have a satisfied, fulfilled adult life.”

Three people shaped his teaching style: A law school professor author Scott Turow described in the autobiography “One L,” the relentless educator played by John Houseman in the movie “The Paper Chase,” and a former colleague, Deck Andrews, who advised Hoyle: “If you care for these students, you will push them to be great.”

In the early 1990s, Hoyle stopped lecturing and started using the Socratic method. His enthusiasm still burns bright. And he doesn’t have any plans to retire. “I tell my wife I’ve made 50 years,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see if I can make 60.”

Part of what keeps him going is seeing professors older than he is continuing to teach with undiluted joy. Another is an innate ability to evolve. Early on in his teaching career, he was an older brother figure to undergrads. Now Hoyle readily admits that he could be their grandfather.

“You’ll hear faculty say all the time, ‘Students today are not like they used to be,’” Hoyle said. “No, students have not changed one iota. What changes is that relationship, the way they look at you.”

Students might be essentially the same over time, but each new class arrives full of unique individuals. “They’re different from the ones you’ve ever taught before,” Hoyle observed. “Every semester you’ll have students that just amaze you.”

There’s no question what Hoyle envisions. “The goal is this,” he tells students the first day, “at the end of the last day of class, I want you to look at me and say, ‘I never thought I could work so hard. I never thought I could think deeply. I never thought I’d learn so much. And it was fun.’”


University of Richmond Magazine: The Hoyle method