Alumnus Kozyak to Receive Florida Bar Diversity Award
The Florida Bar will award John W. Kozyak, JD ’75, with the Henry Latimer Diversity Award on June 24 in recognition of his commitment to ensuring that members of the legal profession reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. The award is named after the late Henry Latimer, who was in line to become the first African American president of the Florida Bar had he not died in a car accident in January 2005.
“Henry Latimer was my—and many, many others’—hero. He was a giant as a lawyer and an inspirational leader in the Florida Bar,” Koyzak recalls. “It was also at his urging that I first became involved in the Florida Bar’s Equal Opportunities Law Section.”
Throughout his life and career, Kozyak has proven time and again his commitment to diversity in his own community. This commitment was instilled in him from a very young age, back when he was growing up in a segregated community in Granite City, Illinois in the 1950s and 60s. “When you’re a kid, there’s not a lot you can do about something like that, though it was clear to me that it was wrong,” Kozyak says.
Once an established attorney, however, Kozyak found himself in a position to act. In 1982, he became a founding partner of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton. Shortly after founding the firm, Kozyak and his partners quickly committed their commercial litigation firm to becoming a national leader in recruiting and developing talented minority lawyers. The firm established a $20,000 scholarship for minority students and started seeking out female, Hispanic, and African-American lawyers. But the firm’s most influential project was reviving a mentoring program for black law students at the University of Miami.
The minority mentoring programs at the University of Miami and St. Thomas Schools of Law are now named after Kozyak. During the past 10 years, he has personally matched more than 900 black students throughout Florida with judges and lawyers who serve as mentors. In recent years, he has also helped found a similar program at Washington University School of Law.
In addition to this award, Kozyak has received several other honors in recognition of his good works. Among these, his firm was honored with the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation in 2004 in recognition of its commitment to providing free legal services to those who cannot afford legal fees. In 2006, Kozyak received the prestigious Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award and the Florida Bar’s highest award for humanitarianism, The G. Kirk Haas Humanitarian Award. In 2007, he also received the ABA’s Spirit of Excellence award for his work in diversity. Kozyak’s many memberships include the ABA, where he is a fellow; the Black Lawyer’s Association; and the Cuban-American Bar Association. In 2011, Super Lawyers magazine named him one of the Top 10 Lawyers in Florida, based on independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.
Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton was also the recipient of The Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar’s first Diversity Award. The award was given in recognition of a person or entity “demonstrating the highest morality and respect for all persons, creating diversity, and promoting a diverse workplace.”
“I have been blessed with lots of recognition and it sometimes is, frankly, embarrassing because there are so many others who are deserving and because I am not in this for more plaques and certificates,” Kozyak says. “However, I am deeply honored that I will be the recipient of the Henry Latimer Award.”