Penn State Laureate David Witwer to present 'Searching for Jimmy Hoffa'

David Witwer

David Witwer

Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

SHARON, Pa. — Penn State Shenango will host a virtual presentation by 2020-21 Penn State Laureate David Witwer at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12. Witwer’s program, “Searching for Jimmy Hoffa,” will delve into the life of America’s largest labor union president, and why his disappearance is still a cultural phenomenon today.

“In ‘Searching for Jimmy Hoffa,’ I trace the history of what we know about Hoffa’s disappearance, his involvement with organized crime, and what his career reveals about working-class attitudes towards corruption,” said Witwer, professor of American studies in Penn State Harrisburg's School of Humanities.

2020-21 Penn State Laureate David Witwer previews his laureate presentation

David Witwer, professor of American studies in Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Humanities and Penn State Laureate for the 2020-21 academic year previews his lectures, which will draw on his research on corruption, organized crime, and labor racketeering. Presentations will focus on his current book project, “Searching for Jimmy Hoffa,” which traces the history of what is known about International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James R. Hoffa’s disappearance, his involvement with organized crime, and what his career reveals about working-class attitudes towards corruption. Witwer plans to generate conversations about what past confrontations with corruption can teach us today.

Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

The fact that Hoffa’s case remains unsolved, his body never found, has also given his story a mythic character.

The story of Hoffa’s disappearance continues to enthrall the public, finding its way into popular culture in many ways, from films such as Sylvester Stallone’s “F.I.S.T.” or Martin Scorsese’s "The Irishman," to made-for-television dramas like “Blood Feud,” the animated series “The Simpsons,” and a series of true crime books, most recently, James Neff’s “Vendetta.”

“In these various media iterations, Hoffa is a blue-collar hero who makes a Faustian bargain with an all-powerful Mafia; he serves as a potent symbol in American culture, tied to our understanding of working-class power, corruption, and the role of organized crime," said Witwer.

The presentation “Searching for Jimmy Hoffa: The Disappearance of America’s Most Notorious Labor Leader and Why It Still Matters Today” is free and open to the public via Zoom at this link. Contact Melissa Fowler in Academic Affairs at 724-983-2825 or [email protected] for connection assistance or other inquiries.

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Jammie Clark at [email protected] or call 724-983-2838 at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the program to allow sufficient time to effectively meet your access needs.

About the 2020-21 Penn State Laureate

Before coming to Penn State, Witwer worked for the New York County District Attorney’s Office as an investigative analyst on assignment with the New York State Organized Crime Task Force, looking into the mob’s role in the construction industry. Later, he drew on that investigative work when he served with the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York and worked with Office of Investigations in the Teamsters Union.

Established in 2008, the Penn State Laureate program brings greater visibility to the arts and humanities as scholars share their work across the commonwealth.


Melissa Fowler

Academic Affairs Administrative Support Coordinator, Penn State Shenango

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