The Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) Board of Trustees has selected one of the university’s alumni to be its next chairman. Miami attorney Larry Handfield, a 1978 graduate of Bethune-Cookman, will formally begin his term on July 1, 2009. He is the first alumnus in the university’s 105-year history to be elected chairman.
In making the announcement of Handfield’s election, Bethune-Cookman University President Trudie Kibbe Reed said, “He is a role model for our students in so many ways. This is a man who rose from humble beginnings and through the power of education became an incredible success. At the same time, he gives back to the community and institutions, like B-CU, that helped him along his journey.”
Handfield is a true success story. Growing up in Miami under the watchful eye of a single mother, he overcame the challenges of inner city life and developed an early appreciation for the value of education. A turning point during his early education was when the band director of then Bethune-Cookman College paid a visit to Handfield’s high school, Miami Carol Senior High, which resulted in the offer of a full scholarship to the young drum major. He attributes the discipline required to fulfill his responsibilities as drum major for Bethune’s “Marching Wildcats” and excel in the classroom to his later successes in life. After graduating with honors, Handfield pursued his goal of a career in law and entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. He earned a J.D. degree from Howard in 1981 and awarded with an honorary doctorate by his alma mater sixteen years later.
Noting the influence Bethune-Cookman had on his life, Handfield said, “I still take seriously the motto of ‘enter to learn, depart to serve,’ and have adopted this philosophy in both my personal and professional life.” He added, “From this, I created a new personal motto that ‘service is the price we pay for the space we occupy on this earth’. As I have become successful, I have always found a way to reach back, to give back to others.”
Handfield has practiced law for over 25 years and is currently the principal of The Handfield Group, an eight-lawyer firm specializing in criminal defense and based in Miami. He has been a prominent figure in Florida’s legal community and has served in a number of capacities at the bequest of some of the state’s top elected officials. In 1992, Governor Bob Martinez named Handfield to the state’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission. He then was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles as the chairman of the 11th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission and served for four years. In his hometown of Miami Handfield was the first chair of the Civilian Investigative Panel that provides oversight of the city’s police department. He was recently appointed to the Statewide Ethics Commission by Governor Charlie Crist, where he currently serves as one of nine commissioners overseeing standards of conduct for officers and employees of the state of Florida.
The Miami attorney has also been active on the health care front. He is past board chairman of the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust, which oversees the Jackson Health System, the nation’s largest hospital system. He was initially appointed to the board by Mayor Alex Penelas and served for nine years, and four as chair before stepping down in 2006. In 2006 Handfield played a major role in the decision to admit Marlie Casseus, a Haitian teenager with a 16-pound tumor on her face, to the city’s Jackson Memorial Hospital for life saving surgery.
Larry Handfield’s daughter, Crystal, will continue the family’s Bethune-Cookman tradition when she receives her degree next year. Her commencement will take place just months after construction begins on the new Dr. Larry R. Handfield Athletic Training Center.