Larry Hayes was a lonely teenager in the summer of 1955. The 15-year-old had just moved from Aiken, South Carolina, to Gainesville with his parents — the three of them living in a small apartment on the northeast side of town. Too young to drive, he would take daily walks to the Baird hardware store downtown for exercise and to lose weight. He would also play golf whenever he had the chance. Still, it was a struggle to find friends and activities to fill his days — until he crossed paths with a young graduate student named Bob Crisafi.
ob, and his new wife, Barbara, lived in the same apartment complex. Bob and Larry became friends and shared an interest in playing chess. Larry was an inquisitive teenager who enjoyed science, while Bob was pursuing his Ph.D. in pharmacy at the University of Florida. They would sit for hours outside their apartments and talk about anything that came to mind, including pharmacy.
“Larry may have been Bob Crisafi’s first recruit in pharmacy,” said Rebecca, Larry’s wife of 61 years. “The things that Bob Crisafi told him did not fall on deaf ears. He listened, took it all in, and set a goal for what he wanted in life.”
With Bob’s encouragement, Larry enrolled in the UF College of Pharmacy. His five years as a pharmacy student were transformative, both personally and professionally. He and Rebecca, his high school sweetheart, married and welcomed their first child, Laura. He thrived in school and worked part-time in the pharmacy at Alachua General Hospital.
Larry’s pharmacy education culminated with a B.S. in Pharmacy degree in 1962. After a brief stint in retail pharmacy, he transitioned to pharmaceutical sales with Eli Lilly and Company, where he worked for 12 years and rose to a government sales position in San Antonio, Texas. In 1977, he fulfilled his dream of becoming an attorney, earning a J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio and going to work for a Dallas law firm. Using his background in pharmacy, he specialized in medical malpractice defense and enjoyed arguing his cases before a jury. After a career spanning more than four decades, during which he was named a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine, he retired in 2005.
Not lost on Larry was the influence Bob Crisafi had on his career. While the two went their separate ways after college and lost touch with each other, Larry often talked fondly of his first friend in Gainesville.
“You don’t always know the impact you might have on someone’s life,” said Larry’s son, Bruce. “You might feel that you are only passing through their life, but Bob Crisafi was someone who had a profound impact on my dad’s life, and he never forgot it.”
In late 2020, Larry passed away at his mountain home in Georgia. As his family looked for ways to celebrate his life, an email nine months later caught Rebecca’s attention.
The email was a fundraising appeal for the Crisafi Challenge — a campaign Bob Crisafi started in 2015 to provide recruitment scholarships to incoming UF College of Pharmacy students. Every October, the college hosts a 10-day challenge where alumni and friends are encouraged to raise $50,000 for student scholarships. Dr. Bob, as he is affectionally known around the college, matches every donation up to that amount.
“I read the email and immediately thought this was the perfect way to honor Larry,” Rebecca said. “Bob Crisafi was such a part of the narrative of Larry’s life. He credits Bob with putting him on a career trajectory that proved to be very fulfilling for him.”
In October, the Hayes family made a gift to the Crisafi Challenge in Larry’s honor. The challenge happened to coincide with Larry’s birthday on Oct. 4. It was a fitting tribute to celebrate two men forever connected by a friendship established in 1955 and their lifelong connection to pharmacy.