He’ll be back
Adult education graduate studies adult
Photo by Michael Bailey
epiphany led Gary Beasley to earn his undergraduate degree
34 years after
dropping out of college. Now it’s
on to a
By Katherine Thompson Jackson
Gary Beasley, 52, recently graduated from the University of Virginia’s
adult degree program, and after completion of graduate school, he plans to return
to adult education— this time from the provider side.
“My focus has become adult education with a strong interest in education
policy,” he said.
Beasley completed his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies last
summer, too late to march down the Lawn at graduation and celebrate his accomplishment
with his family and friends. So this spring, while waiting for his chance to
fulfill that dream, he enrolled in U.Va.’s Curry
School of Education master’s
degree program with an eye to pursuing a Ph.D. in education research. Ultimately,
Beasley plans a new career in adult higher education at a community college — perhaps
even at his alma mater, U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Beasley’s interest in formal education is largely a mid-life phenomenon.
Following his graduation from Albemarle High School in 1970, he enrolled in Hampden-Sydney
College — and promptly flunked out after a semester. “I worked several
jobs, including some time on the road as a professional musician,” said
the affable Beasley.
When Gary Beasley walks down the Lawn this May, he will follow in the footsteps
of other family members who are U.Va. graduates:
Wife, Sharon Beasley,
M.S. Accounting ’89
• Son, Christopher Beasley,
• Daughter-in-law, Sherri Hunter,
engineer, he began his career at the Albemarle County Service Authority, the
public water and sewer service provider for the Charlottesville,
Scottsville and Rivanna areas. After 13 years at ACSA, Beasley became
a senior engineer with Chesterfield County. In 1994, he became an
engineer with tri-county
water and the Rapidan Service Authority, RSA. The following year, he
promoted to director of engineering at RSA.
It was in this latter position that he began to think once again about
attending college. “I worked with some very highly educated men and women who thought
I was kidding when I said I had studied engineering at home,” Beasley said. “This
never bothered me enough to try college again until I discovered one of my colleagues
was unable to read from a manual.”
It was something of an educational epiphany for Beasley. “I have seldom
experienced such empathy for another human being as I did for this person. Imagine
what is missed by not being able to read.
For some time, I quietly tried to help this person, but realized I did not have
the necessary skills. This experience led me to return to college, get a degree,
and teach. … Engineering, elementary school, college — it did not
matter. I wanted those advanced skills that would enable me to help those who
needed it,” Beasley said.
In 1999, Beasley retired from his engineering job, enrolled at Piedmont
Virginia Community College and two years later, entered the University’s Bachelor’s
of Interdisciplinary Studies program, attracted by its association with the Curry
School of Education. BIS students with a concentration in education, including
Beasley, take education classes through the Curry School.
His BIS experience made for a smooth transition to graduate school,
Beasley said. A self-proclaimed hard worker who believes in “staying up all night if
that is what it takes to get the job done,” he learned some important lessons. “BIS
classes, which are comparable to my graduate school courses, trained me well
for thinking more clearly and being more open-minded and figuring out what’s
important,” he said. “BIS taught me to work smarter. It served as
another tool towards graduate education.”
After completing graduate school, Beasley said, “I would love to work in
a position that involves education policy-making. I am interested in adult higher
education, and I can envision myself working in the BIS program.”