Graduate’s business built upon a liberal arts and sciences foundation
No matter where he goes or what he does, Jeff Handlin is always a Jayhawk at heart.
After graduating from law school at Duke University and moving to Florida, he became president of the Tampa alumni chapter, not for the Blue Devils but for the Jayhawks. His office is decorated with Jayhawk and Kansas memorabilia. He buys tickets to travel to Lawrence every year for the weekend of the Final Four so he can be in town if the Jayhawks win the national championship. And when he decided to launch his own business in 2011 in the Denver area, he chose a name that is unmistakably KU: Oread Capital.
Handlin said his education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at KU fostered his intellectual curiosity and broadened his analytical abilities, which has been invaluable in his career. Handlin graduated from the College in 1998 with degrees in Latin American studies and environmental studies.
“People who come from a liberal arts background can do almost anything. They want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing, not just how to do it. At KU especially, the interdisciplinary nature of the College exposes you to not just your major but other courses and areas of interest,” Handlin said. “I find people in leadership positions and business owners like myself, they’re intellectually curious. “
The connection to KU in his business goes deeper than just the name. As a residential developer, Jeff Handlin builds housing subdivisions. To him, they’re more than just lots and houses. He sees the projects as opportunities to build communities and social networks. It’s a passion that stems from his time as a KU student.
“It was a capital ‘C’ Community with staff and faculty who got me involved,” Handlin said of the university.
His involvement as a student included working as a University Student Ambassador; a teaching assistant to Val Smith in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; an Admissions Office employee; studying abroad in Costa Rica; and participating in University Honors Program activities.
Handlin’s real estate development and finance career spans more than a decade, working for major development companies before starting his own business. In his new venture, Handlin’s company invests in, develops, operates and manages real estate projects, mostly large-scale residential and mixed-use developments.
In his most recent development project, Handlin has set out, in a way, to build a “carbon copy” of his KU experience.
He is developing a 3,000-home master planned community called Anthem Colorado in Broomfield, Colo. The overall community is split into two properties: Anthem Highlands, a residential family community, and Anthem Ranch, a 55-plus community for active adults. What he’s most passionate about in this project is implementing opportunities to encourage connectivity and community among neighbors.
The end goal, he said, is to develop a capital “C” Community, like he experienced at KU.
“When I began developing projects, these master planned communities felt more ‘master planned’ than an actual community. And I didn’t like that,” Handlin said. “It’s a really good thing to know your neighbors and people in other subdivisions in the community. The trail systems we develop these days are meant to interconnect neighborhoods. We program activities and it builds a culture where people get connected with each other over common interests. As developers, the more that we can facilitate those kinds of things, the better.”
Aside from trying to instill KU traditions in his business dealings, Handlin is also passing on his love of the university to his daughters. He and his wife, Amy Batchelder Handlin, a 1997 graduate of the College, travel back to Lawrence often and bring their kids to show them one of their favorite places in the world. Their daughters are already catching the Jayhawk spirit.
“They are massive, rabid KU fans,” he said.