Q: Who was Dolly Hand?
A: Frances “Dolly” Hand, namesake of the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center at the Belle Glade campus of Palm Beach Community College, is a Belle Glade native who had to come all the way to suburban Lake Worth to attend what then was Palm Beach Junior College. She roomed with a former principal of Belle Glade High and his wife. She graduated in 1945. She met Homer Hand, a native of LaBelle, at a Clewiston skating rink. The two married in 1954 and settled in Belle Glade, where Homer was a civil engineer. Just as she was obtaining
her law degree from Stetson University, her father died and she and her mother and Homer ran the family real estate business.
The Hands helped bring PBCC to the Glades in 1971. She was a PBCC trustee from 1973 until 1989 and Homer from 1987 to 1999. They also were big cheerleaders for the 500-seat, $2 million performing arts center that bears Dolly’s name, helping raise money and making a large donation themselves. Dolly didn’t know it was named for her until she drove up to the 1982 opening with then-PBCC president Ed Eissey. In 1996, the college added a “grand hall” lobby.
The Hands also have given financial help, from scholarships to clothes, to hundreds of students and helped the Methodist Children’s Home, the Living Christmas Tree project and various churches. In May 1997, Gov. Lawton Chiles and his wife, Rhea, went to Belle Glade to make the couple the first recipients of the Chileses’ Heartland Award for “people who exemplify long-term commitment and service to communities.”
“If the campus were not here there would be very many people who would not be able to go to college,” Hand said in March. “And we didn’t have any cultural activities in the Glades.”
Palm Beach Community College, Belle Glade campus: (561) 993-1122
Learn more: Lawrence Will Museum at Belle Glade Public Library: 966-3453