Hovde enlisted in the Army in 1944 after high school and saw action in France and Germany. In 1950, he received a degree in philosophy from Columbia College and in 1955 a Ph.D. in English from Princeton. He then taught at Ohio State and in Europe before joining the English department at Columbia in 1960. He became professor emeritus in 1995.
An associate professor of comparative English literature when he became dean in July 1968, Hovde played an important role in restoring calm after several weeks of student protests that led to buildings being occupied, vandalism, and the arrest of hundreds of students. When he returned to teaching in 1972, the student newspaper, The Columbia Daily Spectator, editorialized that Hovde had “sought to quietly guide the college, not to rule it; to use the force of persuasion and reason, not the blunt power of authority.”
Hovde is survived by his wife Bertha, whom he married in 2000; three children; and four grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.
Graduate memorials are prepared by the APGA.