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.