Burnet Hobgood came to Urbana in 1975 to lead the University of Illinois Department of Theatre, where he also ran the doctoral program until 1991. Earlier in his career, Hobgood founded and led theatre programs at both Catawba College in North Carolina and Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In 1970, he served as president of the American Educational Theatre Association and later became the dean of its College of Fellows. While college theatre programs for years had been largely focused on productions, Hobgood sought to strengthen their academics and make them more professional, aiming to create programs that emulated what students would encounter in the industry. Among the students he taught over the course of his career were acclaimed actress Kathy Bates and Academy Award–winning director Ang Lee. He has left a lasting legacy as an influential force in theatre education.