Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:Fighting injustice through activism

Author: Lauren M. Poteat
Date Published: April 8, 2024
a man in a white shirt smiles
Rand Hoch (C’77), founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, recalls learning “a new way of thinking and analyzing” at Georgetown College of Arts & Sciences. Photo: Courtesy of Rand Hoch

Rand Hoch’s (C’77) lifelong passion for political activism began in the 1960s, when he was a teenager growing up in Massachusetts. He was a key organizer in student-led efforts to lower the national voting age to 18.

“I realized at an early age that by working with other people and motivating them with a common cause, you can actually get things accomplished,” says Hoch, an attorney and retired judge who has lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, since the early 1980s.

A longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council in 1988. The organization is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Hoch’s work with the council led to the enactment of over 150 local laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community.

In December, Hoch received the President Joseph R. Biden Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service from Points of Light.

“It was extremely exciting and rewarding for me to receive an award from the President for my volunteer work,” says Hoch, who also has volunteered for presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. “Volunteer service has always been important to me.”

Like many others in the LGBTQ+ community, Hoch has experienced discrimination in his career. While a student at Stetson University School of Law, for example, Hoch clerked for a law firm that offered him a job upon graduation. However, the opportunity was rescinded when he disclosed to the firm that he is gay. The injustice fueled his activism.

After graduating from law school in 1985, Hoch established his legal practice focusing on labor, workers’ compensation, and election law. In 1992, he became Florida’s first openly LGBTQ+ judge when appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles to serve as Judge of Compensation Claims. When his term ended in 1996, Hoch returned to his law and mediation practice in West Palm Beach.

Hoch credits his Georgetown education for equipping him with the skills to analyze and resolve issues, which he has applied in his law practice and volunteer work.

“The Jesuits’ educational style taught students to open up and think in front of other people,” Hoch says. “They weren’t just lecturing—they were questioning, and they were listening. I learned a new way of thinking and analyzing, and I applied that to the work I was doing outside of the classroom. Georgetown has helped me in so many ways prepare for the things that I do for my career and the things that I do for volunteer work.”

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