LaVahn Hoh, circus historian extraordinaire, is retiring from the UVA Drama Department after 46 years of teaching. Since he first began teaching his course on the history of the American circus in 1982, he has become a respected and beloved figure in the circus world. He taught circus history at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College for several years, and was the school's archivist and historian. He was later made an honorary ringmaster by the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus. He also is much-admired for his theatrical technical knowledge and his outreach to high school theaters. In 2009, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Virginia Theatre Association.
In 2002, he started the Circus in America: 1793-1940 project, which covers the evolution of the circus from a major source of information and entertainment to a cross-cultural and multi-generational entertainment industry. He is the co-author of Step Right Up! The Adventure of Circus in America. Prof. Hoh also picked up a wide range of skills in his research into the history of the circus, including an ability to handle venomous snakes while reciting 14th-century Chinese verse. “It puts the snakes in a relaxed state, making them easier to handle,” he explained to his students.
In recent years, he has served as the Academic Dean on several Semester at Sea voyages, teaching circus and theater history courses to students.