Concord Community Honors the Beasleys: Student Center Naming and Gift Announced
Athens, W.Va. – On Friday, May 16, the Concord community recognized the contributions of both Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Beasley to Concord University and this region with a banquet with more than 200 in attendance in the Student Center Ballroom.
Mr. Steve Cox, head men’s basketball coach and NCAA compliance officer, served as emcee for the event. He asked the Beasleys and guests to identify “mystery” voices of several who would be speaking later during the banquet.
“Jerry, if you don’t stop that bird watching you’ll get us both killed,” quipped President Emeritus, Dr. Joseph F. Marsh, Jr., as he spoke from behind the curtain at the beginning of the program and was introduced to guests following the “This is your life” television program theme. Next, Ms. Heather Beasley, Ms. Sarah Beasley, and Ms. Leah Beasley, daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Beasley, teased their parents and guests, followed by Dr. Wayne Meisel, president of the Bonner Foundation, and Dr. J. Douglas “Doug” Machesney, vice president for development emeritus for Concord University.
The Reverend Greg Godwin, pastor of the Concord United Methodist Church, provided the invocation and dinner was served by ARAMARK Food Services.
After dinner, Dr. Marsh noted in his remarks: “Dr. Beasley has served 23 years, a record that probably never will be reached or exceeded in the future. Concord attained university status under Dr. Beasley’s watch … and now awards master’s degrees. Through personal leadership and commitments, the 70-year-old dream of an interfaith chapel has been kept alive and soon will become reality through the construction of University Point … just one example of the success in obtaining significant private gifts for many worthy purposes at Concord …. Jerry and Jean’s sense of community is highlighted by beginning the Athens-Concord Town Social that attracts hundreds to the campus each year. They have demonstrated a special commitment to students by providing the resources necessary to deserving students.”
Daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Beasley then shared special memories.
Ms. Sarah Beasley noted that: “Mom and Dad provided words of encouragement and love…. What I admire about Dad is that he could see the positive in people and situations … and, thankfully for us, that carried over to the young men we brought home, too! We were afraid that Dad might be as tough on them as his father-in-law was on him, but he ended up being a big ‘softie.’”
Ms. Heather Beasley said: “Dad and Mom instilled a love of learning in us at an early age … although as kids, we didn’t always appreciate listening to tapes of bird calls in the car! It’s no coincidence that all three of us are pursuing careers in education. We began emulating Dad’s example at an early age. We were probably the only kids who played ‘telethon’ in the basement, with our plastic toy phones ringing constantly, taking million-dollar pledges for Concord … from presidents, celebrities, and cartoon characters … with the top pledge of ‘one katrillion dollars’ … coming from … who else, but Big Bird! Dad has selflessly served others and has encouraged us to do the same. More than once he has asked us, as we ponder our own career paths, ‘Who do you want to serve?’ Dad, thanks for being such a wonderful role model, inspiration, advocate, and friend.”
Ms. Leah Beasley then shared a special slide presentation that included a top-10 list of activities their parents could pursue during retirement, along with favorite pictures from the Beasley family photo album portraying her parents in amusing situations that elicited laughter from the audience.
Dr. Meisel asked Dr. Beasley to join him at the podium, and said: “Jerry Beasley has been the most important, the most significant, and the most distinguished educator in higher education in America over the last quarter century. Jerry Beasley has spoken with a prophetic voice for the rebirth of civic engagement in American culture. Jerry Beasley has served as a primary architect of the Bonner Scholars program and the whole concept of access education and opportunity to serve through service-based scholarships. Jerry Beasley has been the most significant figure in my professional life.
“As a young activist, I met a young president named Jerry Beasley. Both of us were rather impressed with ourselves because we had reached such a high level of position at such a young age … 23 years later … both of us have the same jobs … and a little bit of well-deserved humility to boot.
“The gift you’ve given me, Jerry, is the gift that we’ve been able to do the work. And, we’ve been able to dream … and, actually make some of those dreams come true. I think about what gift to give you,” he said in closing, “and I think our gift back to you is a recommitment to advance the noble causes that you have championed for more than two decades.”
He then awarded the Bonner Foundation’s highest award, the President’s Award, to Dr. Beasley, and announced that Dr. and Mrs. Beasley were honorary Bonner Scholars.
Dr. Machesney, who met Dr. Beasley in 1968, talked about his first encounter with him by saying: “I hired Jerry to work for me in Charleston … jump forward to 1985, and Jerry Beasley became president of Concord. The next year, he hired me to work for him. Now, jump another 23 years to today … and, Jerry Beasley is retiring as president of Concord University. What has happened in those 23 years? Concord has achieved university status, offers a master’s degree, facilities have been renovated, and a technology center that is second to none.
“Thanks to your leadership, Concord University has consistently ranked among the top institutions of this kind in the South. And, Concord has a scholarship program that enables the institution to attract outstanding students … 6,979 students have received degrees at Concord while Jerry has been president … many going on to be teachers, lawyers, doctors, and community leaders.”
Following the speeches, special presentations were made on behalf of a variety of organizations.
The Honorable Robert Richardson, mayor, Town of Athens, presented a key to Athens to Dr. Beasley. “There’s only one key, and there’s only one man who will get that key and that’s Jerry Beasley,” he said.
Ms. Jessica Cook, president, Student Government Association, presented a plaque to Dr. Beasley, saying that Dr. Beasley has been an active member of the Athens community, a higher education authority on a state and national level, and a jack-of-all-trades within the university when the state cut out funding. “But most importantly, he has been an advocate for students,” she emphasized.
Ms. Martha Endres, representing the Concord University Parents Club, thanked Dr. Beasley for his encouragement and friendship, and presented a special collage made by Mr. Bob Henry Baber, a West Virginia artist and former director of the Bonner Scholars program at Concord.
On behalf of the Alumni Association, Ms. Rosalie Peck, president of the Association, presented Dr. and Mrs. Beasley a matching set of rockers, a framed P. Buckley Moss print, and a digital picture frame with photographs from the banquet; Ms. Mary Edna Beckett ‘54, professor of mathematics emerita, and treasurer for the Association, presented a special scrapbook; and Ms. Anne Kessinger, representing the Pine Trees Chapter of the Association, announced that two chairs in the Wilkes Family Chapel will be named—one in honor of Dr. Beasley and the other in honor of Mrs. Beasley.
Dr. Hugh Campbell, president of the faculty at Concord, read a resolution from the faculty, first, thanking Mrs. Beasley for her support, and then acknowledging the contributions of Dr. Beasley, noting that the expectations from the faculty have been great. “You’ve been expected to have the wisdom of Solomon, the intelligence of Einstein, the patience of Job, the political savvy of FDR, the financial expertise of Warren Buffet, and the kindness and benevolence of Mother Teresa. Dr. Beasley,” he stated, “what I’ve found in my relationship with you is an absolute love, respect and caring for your wife and children, which speaks to your depth of character. You’ve been visible on the local, state, and national level … to make Concord known … and, you have an urgency and longing to do the right thing for students. You’ve left Concord a better place than you found it.”
On behalf of Dr. Beasley’s cabinet (administrative team), Mr. Jim Cannon, vice president for business and finance, announced, “A monetary gift has been made to University Point in your honor.”
Then, he described cabinet meetings by saying: “We were always expected … to defend, with facts, under an often withering barrage of penetrating questions from Dr. Beasley … that roundly assaulted every premise, every fact and every conclusion in your mind. So you couldn’t get away without being able to back up your assertions. Dr. Beasley has been selfless, cool-headed, honest, intellectual … and of the absolutely highest integrity. He has provided examples to those of us who work for him of discipline, and encouragement, without the overbearing ego that successful leaders sometimes have. It has been an honor to work with and for a gentleman of Jerry Beasley’s caliber, so often under daunting circumstances.”
Mr. Cannon then announced that a window, retrieved from the old White Hall before demolition, was restored by employees from the institution’s physical plant to be given to the Beasleys.
Ms. Amy Pitzer, representing the Classified Personnel Association, presented the Beasleys with a gift that “would go with many of the other gifts given this evening.”
On behalf of the J. Frank Marsh Library, Mr. Fernando Porras, assistant professor of art, with the help of his wife, Marisela, unveiled an oil painting that will be on display in the President’s Room in the Marsh Library. Mr. Porras noted that the Beasleys have been a very special part of their life, particularly upon their arrival in Athens from Venezuela. “Dr. Rowe [director of the Marsh Library] told me that I needed to paint something ‘very beautiful,’” he said with a smile. So, he included Mrs. Beasley in the portrait.
Chair for the Board of Governors, Mr. J. Franklin “Joe” Long, presented a dozen red roses to Mrs. Beasley, saying, “Not only did she make a commitment to her husband in 1974 [wedding day], but 11 years later, when they came to Concord, she made a similar commitment.”
Chair Long read a resolution from the Board of Governors acknowledging the numerous contributions Dr. Beasley has made as president, and, he made a special announcement that the Student Center would be named the “Jerry L. Beasley Student Center” in his honor.
On behalf of the Athens-Concord Town Social committee, Ms. Lynne White, chair, announced that the theme for the 2008 Social would be “A Celebration of Jean Beasley’s Service.” She also presented a plaque to Mrs. Beasley acknowledging her contributions toward making the socials a success since 1987, and noted that she was a founding member of the Town Social committee.
Mr. Jack Toney, director of State Financial Aid Programs, represented the Higher Education Policy Commission. He read a resolution from the Policy Commission recognizing Dr. Beasley’s contributions to Concord and higher education.
Former Board of Governors Chair, Mr. R.T. “Ted” Rogers made a special announcement [that was not on the program] on behalf of former Board member, Mr. Eugene “Gene” Fife. “On behalf of Mr. Fife, another ‘Hinton boy,’ who is on his way to Istanbul, Turkey, and who has done well for himself, I would like to read the following: ‘Eugene Fife and family are pleased to recognize you, on the occasion of your retirement by contributing, in honor of you and First Lady, Jean Beasley, to the Beasley-Dressler Scholarship, May 16, 2008, [a check for] $100,000.’”
Dr. Beasley deadpanned, “We will accept it,” after which he and the audience broke into applause.
Mr. Cox noted that a special gift from non-classified staff for Dr. and Mrs. Beasley was on the presentation table. He also noted that Governor Manchin proclaimed Dr. Beasley a “Distinguished Mountaineer.” In addition, Congressman Nick Rahall acknowledged Dr. Beasley’s contributions in the Congressional Record on Tuesday, May 13.
Dr. Beasley, in showing his appreciation, stated that: “This has been a wonderful, wonderful evening. Instructions to me were, ‘Don’t ask any questions!’ And, now I thank those who have planned this evening. The biggest surprise was my brother, Phil, and his wife, Molly; I did not know they were coming. Our mother couldn’t tell our voices apart, and I understand that Loretta [Young] thought that it was I rather than Phil making reservations!
“You preside while a lot of things happen, with others doing the ‘heavy lifting,’” he stated, and then he recognized those he worked with directly in the numerous accomplishments the past 23 years. He concluded by saying, “I always believe that I would have been a better administrator had I, at one time, been a better teacher.” He then recognized his father and brother, who were teachers, and his wife.
Contributors to the evening included the following: Dr. Jane Smith, and Drs. Dean and Sherry Turner who provided music for the reception; ARAMARK Food Services for beverages and hors d’oeuvres for the reception; Belinda’s Flowers for roses for Mrs. Beasley; Central Printing for the invitations, Grubb Photography for framing of the Louise McNeill Pease print; Steve Coleman Photography for photography for the evening; the Concord University Foundation for beverages and flowers; the Office of Admissions who served as greeters and ushers; and the Public Relations/Marketing Office for the program.
Proceeds from the dinner, after expenses, benefited University Point.
PHOTO: Mrs. Marisela Porras assists her husband, Mr. Fernando Porras, in unveiling a portrait of Dr. and Mrs. Beasley. The portrait will be hung in the President’s Room of the Marsh Library. This is the third portrait painted by Mr. Porras: Previously, he painted portraits of President Emeritus Meredith N. Freeman, and President Emeritus Joseph F. Marsh, Jr.
PHOTO: Mr. Eugene “Gene” Fife, who was unable to attend the banquet, asked Mr. Ted Rogers to make a presentation on his behalf. Dr. Beasley thanks Mr. Rogers for the generous gift of $100,000.
PHOTO: Dr. Beasley and his brother, Phil, in the background
PHOTO: Emcee, Mr. Steve Cox (left) assists Board of Governors Chair, Mr. Joe Long, in unveiling an artist’s rendition of the Student Center with the new name: “Jerry L. Beasley Student Center.”