Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jean Beasley

I saw the other night that Jean Beasley, the wife of former Concord University President Dr. Jerry Beasley, had passed away. Click here to see a press release Concord University put out.

Jerry Beasley was President of Concord from 1985 until the end of the 2007-2008 academic year, which was the same year I was Editor-in-Chief of The Concordian. So, his last year was a big topic I covered a few times throughout the year.

Dr. Beasley was my favorite person at Concord University. I got to be pretty close to him during the four years I interacted with him. I first met him in 2004. I was new to the newspaper staff and only my third or fourth story assignment was to go interview him about some sort of study Concord had released. I was really nervous going to his office and talking to the most important man at the University. But, he immediately put me at ease as soon as I saw him. He was down-to-earth and very nice to me.

I interviewed him and completed the story. I thought it was pretty good. A couple weeks after the story was printed I was walking around campus and Dr. Beasley happened to be passing by. He remembered my name and said hi to me.

Every so often over the course of the next several academic years, I would interview Dr. Beasley and it would always turn into a discussion about our lives. In 2007, for the first issue of his last year, I sat down in his office and he started off asking how my summer went. After probably 15 minutes of him asking questions to me, he stopped and laughed and said, "This probably isn't what you're here to talk about."

I had one interaction with Jean Beasley and it has stuck with me since it occurred in the spring of 2008. I wrote an editorial piece in The Concordian that was really catching a lot of heat from my fellow students. First, a backstory:

A search committee had been formed to find a replacement for President Beasley. They would narrow all of the applicants and give their list of however many (6, maybe) to the Board of Governors, and the BOG would decide on the next President. The BOG listened to a lot of people to help them make their decision, including letting three of the main constituency groups on campus vote for their pick after the final candidates had made visits to campus and spoken with them.

The three constituency groups were the faculty, administration, and the students. The only candidate for President who was already in-house at Concord was Dr. John David Smith, a very popular man around campus. The three groups voted. The faculty and administration, of which Dr. Smith was a member of both (as a professor and Vice President), did not select Smith. I was at the SGA meeting when the student representatives selected their candidate. A couple student leaders decried the faculty and admin picks and basically urged people to select Dr. Smith for the sole reason being that he was Dr. Smith.

I wrote a piece basically saying it was irresponsible for the SGA representatives to select Dr. Smith just because of who he was and not taking into consideration who was really the best choice for Concord. A few weeks later, Dr. Gregory Aloia was selected.

Shortly after that article was printed, I went to my campus mailbox and discovered an envelope that contained a handwritten letter. It was from Jean Beasley. She praised the article I had written and said that she really liked that I stood up for what I believed in, even if it wasn't a popular opinion. She said a couple more complimentary things and I really appreciated that she went out of her way to tell me what she thought.

I only saw Dr. Beasley a couple times since 2008. I only saw Jean Beasley once, but she and her husband were walking down the street in Athens as I was driving by. I never got a chance to tell her how much that meant to me. Since I couldn't do that, I'll just tell everybody else that I really appreciated what she did and thought it was very nice of her.


  1. I was shocked to hear of Mrs. Beasley's passing. She was always friendly and gracious, asking about my studies and, when she learned that I too was from Hinton, my family and our mutual acquaintances.

    In March 2002, Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer, gave a presentation at Concord College. His speech was followed by a reception at the Beasleys' home. Imagine my surprise and honor at being selected to not-only attend the reception but be introduced to Mr. Reinhard. My fellow student, Leah Baker, and I made our way to the house, took a deep breath, and went inside.

    As we shuffled about awkwardly, trying to find our place in an such a foreign environment, Jean Beasley saw us, recognized our nervousness and discomfort, and pulled us aside for a chat. She asked us about ourselves and our interest in archaeology, made sure we had gathered our wits, and then introduced us to Mr. Reinhard so smoothly and charmingly that we didn't have a chance to be nervous.

    This may not seem like much, but I will never forget the way she helped me find the confidence that has guided me in similar situations ever since.

    If Dr. Beasley is willing, I think it would be a wonderful gesture for the Concordian to put out a special memorial insert or even edition. Perhaps a biography feature and some focus on topics that were important to Jean. What do you think?

    1. Thank you for sharing. I really liked that story. And, yeah, some sort of coverage in The Concordian would make for a good story.

  2. Almost forgot. Here is the event I was referencing: http://www.concord.edu/news/2002/01/22/world-famous-explorer-speak-concord

  3. Chris & Blog Followers:

    They have placed a memory book in the campus library for anyone that would like to share a memory of Mrs. Beasley. Her family might enjoy reading your story/memories. Just a thought...

  4. Does anyone know of Jerry's current address? I'd like to send our condolences since we're to far away to attend any events or speak with him directly.

    1. I'm not sure of his address, but the last I heard he was living in Athens. Maybe the post office in Athens could forward something to them if you sent it directly there?

    2. Larry, if I see him this weekend, I will ask him for it. Chris's idea about the post office is not a bad one... one of the benefits of small-town-ness.