Magazine Feature / People

DU law graduate to share words from the heart

Frank Bingham

Frank Bingham will be the speaker at the Sturm College of Law's Commencement ceremony on May 22. Photo: Chase Squires

It’s been less than four years since Frank Bingham experienced the tragedy of a lifetime, losing his entire family in one senseless moment when a drunk driver sped through the streets of Denver, running down Bingham’s wife and two children.

In those years, Bingham could have given up, succumbed to the shock and grief. But he didn’t. He persevered, leaned on friends when he needed to, took comfort from the words of strangers and found a way to get out of bed each morning. He will share the lessons he learned along his grueling journey when he speaks at the Sturm College of Law Commencement ceremony on May 22.

Bingham, 44, who already held a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Wyoming, a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Northern Colorado and a PhD in education from the University of Denver, began pursuing a law degree part time in August 2006. In November of that year as he was finishing that first semester, he was in downtown Denver with his wife, Becca, and their two children, Macie, 4, and Garrison, 2. A drunk driver, Lawrence Trujillo, ran a red light at 15th and Arapahoe streets and struck the family. Bingham was injured, but his wife and children were killed.

His classmates at the college of law rallied around him. Classmate and friend Linda Stanley recalled the shock of the news.

“I remember thinking ‘I wonder if I should go down to the hospital to see him or if this is the time he wants to spend with family,’” she says. “I thought about it and I wondered what I would want someone else to do. I thought I’d want them to come down, just to be there. So I went, even though I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.”

During the hospital room visit, surrounded by Bingham’s relatives, Stanley and Bingham talked about law school and their studies and professors they had encountered in their first semester. That brief meeting led to a lasting friendship. Stanley and her classmates and many professors and administrators sported red string bracelets to show solidarity when Bingham returned to school the next semester, and they wore them until they disintegrated and fell off.

For his part, Bingham says the decision to go back to school was difficult, but it was something he felt he had to do. In the weeks after the tragedy, Bingham says he’d have to make a conscious effort to even get out of bed. At Trujillo’s sentencing, when the admitted drunk driver was sentenced to 48 years in prison, Bingham told the court he was “a shell” of what he once was, stripped of his family and children.

“It was terribly hard going back, less than two months after it happened. I know I was still somewhat in shock and in a daze,” Bingham says. “In some ways, it’s what kind of kept me going and gave me something to do when I got up in the morning. There were times studying when focusing in on the professor was definitely a challenge. My attention span was pretty limited for a while. But I was inspired by other people who sought me out to share their thoughts or who had experienced similar types of tragedies and were able to pull their lives together and aspire to surprising heights.”

With the support of his classmates, the days and years passed. Stanley recalls the first time she saw him smile after the tragedy and how much it touched her to see him rebuild his life.

“When it came time to pick a speaker for our class, I wasn’t even sure how the process worked, but I said ‘As God is my witness, Frank will be our speaker,’” she says. “I didn’t care what I’d have to do, I was going to do it.”

Bingham says he isn’t sure what’s next for him, what kind of law he’ll practice, or even if he’ll continue practicing law at all. He may return to his career in education, which he left to earn his degree. Prior to law school, Bingham had been a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver and an elementary school principal.

In recent months, he has traveled extensively, tackling a variety of new endeavors from learning Spanish to learning how to kite surf. Bingham has also been working with the city of Denver to erect a large kinetic sculpture by Bob Pietruszewski in downtown’s Skyline Park near the crash site. The sculpture, he hopes, will inspire people to reflect on their own lives and relationships. He’s hosting a fundraising barbecue on May 23 to raise money for the effort, and the sculpture could be erected before the end of the year. He also established the Frank Bingham Family Memorial Annual Scholarship Fund to help DU law students interested in practicing law with an eye toward protecting children and animals.

But while he’s not sure of his future, he does know what he wants to share with his fellow students, many who were rocked by his family’s tragedy. He wrote down some thoughts as an introduction to those who didn’t know him when he was nominated to speak at Commencement.

“Survival and recovery are now defining features of my personal story. In the 40 months since the accident, I have fought to regain my physical health, my emotional well-being, and to rebuild a life that will never be the same, but which I believe might encourage others,” he wrote. “I would like my story to inspire everyone who attends to reflect on the interconnectedness of life and the vital importance of relationships with family, friends and community. I hope that the hideous crime that took my beloved family will help others to recognize the frailty of life, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and the danger of misplaced priorities. Yet above all, I want to focus on the resilient nature of the human spirit and confirm the fact that hope and love can survive.”

The Sturm College of Law Commencement Ceremony will be 10 a.m. May 22. For more information or to watch the ceremony, visit

Ed. Note: An earlier version of the story misstated the name of the drunken driver and some of Bingham’s degrees. This story has been changed to reflect the correct name and degrees.


Comments are closed.