May 14, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 9
Back Issues
‘Our Students Lead Us’
Sullivan Award-winners
Part of the fabric of University life
Curiosity drives Mitman’s pursuits
‘Reverend Nurse:’
At 52, Valley minister feels call to care for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Leap of a lifetime:
Athlete Kim Turko jumps a formidable hurdle — life-threatening illness
He’ll be back:
Adult education graduate studies adult education
‘Hungry to Help:’
Student refugee wants to improve the lives of Burma’s forgotten children
Revitalizing Main Street:
Jill Nolt’s plan for her hometown high school makes front-page news
Peace Corps bound:
Business major trades fast lane for slow pace on Tonga
First in her family:
Angela Caldwell, a Native American, overcomes community attitudes to become lawyer
From Crane’s love of the cosmos comes new era for stargazers
A history of Finals
Sharlotte Bolyard is flying high
A ministry of medicine

Bombay bound:
Darden grad to apply best U.S. business practices to family company in India

Peer educator looks beyond educating:
Health advocacy is next step for Alyssa Lederer

No ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions:
Family expert Charmaine Yoest says creativity, flexibility are keys to resolving work/family issues

Reflections on the road to enlightenment:
Thirteen years, one class at a time, but who was counting?

‘Connecting communities:’
Presentation on African-American history at U.Va. gets students thinking, talking
He’ll be back
Adult education graduate studies adult education
Gary Beasley
Photo by Michael Bailey
Educational epiphany led Gary Beasley to earn his undergraduate degree 34 years after dropping out of college. Now it’s on to a master’s degree.

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.

Beasleys’ Legacy

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,
English ’93

• Daughter-in-law, Sherri Hunter,
English ’92

A self-taught engineer, he began his career at the Albemarle County Service Authority, the public water and sewer service provider for the Charlottesville, Crozet, 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 was 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.”



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