This landmark Miami school is 60 years old and has just picked its second president

Thomas Kruczek was named Columbus High School’s new, and second, president on April 16, 2019. He succeeds Brother Kevin Handibode and will assume his duties on July 1, 2019.
Thomas Kruczek was named Columbus High School’s new, and second, president on April 16, 2019. He succeeds Brother Kevin Handibode and will assume his duties on July 1, 2019. Courtesy Columbus High

Christopher Columbus High School has selected only its second president in its 60-year history, and he will replace Brother Kevin Handibode, an institution at the private boys’ Catholic school in West Miami-Dade.

On Tuesday, the board of trustees named Thomas Kruczek its new president, effective July 1, before the school, run by the Marist Brothers, starts its 61st academic year in August.

For the past five years, Kruczek, 63, has served as president of Notre Dame College, a Catholic liberal arts college in South Euclid, Ohio. Before joining Notre Dame, Kruczek balanced higher education and business careers for more than 30 years.

In 2011, Kruczek led Lynn University’s College of Business & Management in Boca Raton as dean. He also served as the executive director for the Center for Entrepreneurship at both Rollins College in Winter Park in Central Florida, and Syracuse University in New York.

At Lynn, he helped raise the funds for the university’s $15 million College of Business building.

Before entering academia, Kruczek held positions in financial planning and marketing with the Walt Disney Company.

Kruczek holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

A devout Catholic, Kruczek expressed excitement at joining a school that opened in 1958 and is in the middle of celebrating its 60th anniversary. Columbus has more than 1,700 students in grades 9-12.

“I am honored to be following in the footsteps of Brother Kevin, who has served the school so well and faithfully,” he said in a statement.

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Indeed, it will be difficult to assume the mantle Handibode set at Columbus in his 47 years. During his tenure, he was basketball coach, teacher, principal, mentor and public face. Nicknamed “The Shark,” for his legendary fund-raising as well as his formidable coaching presence, Handibode served as president for the last 18 years.

Columbus operated for its first 42 years without a president. The principal and administration oversaw the school, said Cristina Cruz, the school’s marketing director.

Of stepping in as only its second president, Kruczek said: “It will be a privilege to lead a school so rich in the Marist tradition, and one that has provided an outstanding spiritual and academic education to thousands of proud Catholic men. I look forward to working with principal David Pugh and the administration, the passionate and dedicated board members, faculty and staff — and especially to meeting the Columbus Explorers.”

He closed his statement with the school’s familiar logo: “Adelante!”

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Handibode, 80, will assume a new, unspecified, role at Columbus.

“We want to thank Brother Kevin for his 47 years of service to Columbus, 18 as president, and welcome Mr. Kruczek to the Columbus family,” Brother Patrick McNamara, provincial of the United States for the Marist Brothers, and former Columbus principal, said in a media release.

“The Marist Brothers and Columbus community are blessed to have Mr. Kruczek whose experience and passion for education will contribute to the continued success of Christopher Columbus High School.”

Finding a successor to Handibode took 11 months and the work of a nine-member committee made up of Marist Brothers, board members, faculty, alumni and parents.

“The committee received interest from qualified candidates from all over the country, reviewed countless resumes and met with more than a dozen highly qualified candidates,” said Mick Maspons, a Class of 1981 grad and chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “We are confident that Mr. Kruczek will be a great leader to guide the school and help achieve important goals in the next decade.”

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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