With Dr. Freeman’s retirement in 1985, Dr. Beasley was selected president, and held the job longer than anyone else in Concord history: slightly more than 23 years.
As a freshman at Harvard College in the 1960s, Dr. Beasley got a formal invitation to a reception for students at the president’s residence. He put on “the only suit I had” but was “absolutely paralyzed” by the sophisticated atmosphere and crystal chandelier that he glimpsed through the door, and could not force himself to go in.
When he began his Concord presidency, Dr. Beasley recalled, “I was determined, as a result of my personal experience, to make it a welcoming place for students, and one that wasn't intimidating.”32
After describing several high-profile guests who visited the President’s Home, Dr. Beasley added, “I think, more important, from my point of view, were the ‘VIPs-to-be’ who were there ... generally, students.”
He said that each academic year, he would welcome around 20 student government leaders. “We had at least one if not two informal gatherings there, where we had spaghetti or lasagna, and we would sit on the floor and talk about the year to come — and sometimes, mid-year, talk about the experiences that we were going through and what we needed to be doing, together, about them.”
“That was, at least in my way of thinking about it, was much more important than the celebrity-types that we had.”
“The other thing that’s probably more important than the celebrities, is the ideas that took on life there in that house, or at least were pushed down the road a-ways in the house,” he said.
The institutional advancements that took shape with the advice of his guests were indeed many.
Wayne Meisel, a fellow educator and administrator, “came with his Macintosh computer in one knapsack and his balled-up wardrobe in the other ... and lived for five days up on the third floor, and wrote a proposal for our first service program, which was HAPIN [Helping Assist People in Need],” Dr. Beasley said.
Project New River, which eventually introduced college-level courses in many of the area’s public schools, “started to take shape in conversations there in the house,” he said.
“Some of the ideas for University Point took place around the dining-room table there,” he said. Faculty and staff talked about creating a Summer Academy and the Scholars of Distinction program, while visiting with Dr. Beasley.
It was a place where “ideas were shaped and were challenged,” he said, “a place where people felt comfortable in sharing those ideas in a very informal, un-challenging kind of environment.”
The residence was not immune to being a focal point of controversy during his tenure, either. A Concord alumnus, veteran, attorney and politician mounted a personal protest at the edge of the property in the 1980s. Dr. Beasley said, “When Jim McNeely was leading the movement to stop the power line coming through this area, he demonstrated outside with a car and a bullhorn, saying that Concord ought to take a stand on the issue.”
Jerry and his wife Jean brought up their three daughters, Heather, Sarah and Leah, in the house. He said, “The girls remember, I think most vividly, visits from the ghost of Amelia Earhart, who was a regular visitor — they claim. Every time there was a mysterious creak in a floorboard, or a window shutting mysteriously, or any inexplicable noise, it was always ‘Amelia.’ ”
“My girls were always convinced that there were probably secret rooms and passageways in the president’s house, because Joe Marsh had a secret passageway in the president’s office [in the Administration Building].” He noted with a smile that they were never able to find those suspected rooms.
He recalled, “There was the growth chart in the basement, on the door jam, that the Freeman girls started. And our girls thought that there must have been giants living in the house before them. But as they grew, they grew to be as tall or taller than the Freeman girls.”
Dr. Beasley’s wife Jean was a former college valedictorian who had earned a juris doctor degree, but did not practice law. He said she “did a lot to make that a home, rather than a house. She had her secret rhubarb patch, in the midst of the flowers, that allowed her to make her strawberry-rhubarb pie. She was really the lead gardener for the place. She had help from the landscape crew, but all of the flowers were hers.”,
“Jean, digging around in the dirt, discovered some of the buried stone walkways around the house.”
“She spent every year at Christmastime, literally a week, decorating the house. The groundsmen would find evergreen boughs and bring a big pile in.” He said she worked with the branches, creating “garlands all over the house, [and would decorate] a couple of Christmas trees that came from alumnus Gene Bailey’s Christmas-tree farm.”
“After she’d done it for about 15 or so years, she said, ‘I’m not going to do it again.’ But every year, when Christmas rolled around, she did it. And it gave the house a warm kind of feel that I think everyone felt comfortable in — and not just family.”
In a newspaper interview in 1997, Jean Beasley said about the home, “The roominess of it is wonderful. It’s very well made … just beautiful. It has touches that you don’t see in houses built today. It has little cubbyholes and closets everywhere. There’s no wasted space at all.”33
Dr. Beasley, in the same interview, said that the family felt like “stewards” of public property. “I reminded the girls [their daughters] that it is owned by 1.7 million West Virginians, and we just happen to be in it temporarily.”