April 25, 2023
By: Lily Kowtko
The President’s Medal for Meritorious Service is awarded to individuals that go above and beyond the normal call of duty to support the mission of the academy. This year’s medal is awarded to Mr. Jerry Beason, class of 1953. Yes, you read that right…Mr. Beason graduated 70 years ago this spring!
Mr. Beason arrived at the Academy in the summer of 1950 at 15 years old. At that time, the Academy, then known as Southern Industrial Institute, had not yet introduced the military component, but it had a big farm. Mr. Beason stayed at the school year round. And he worked!
During the school year, he worked by sweeping the floors of Tallapoosa Hall. He would wake up at 4am to milk and feed the cows. During the summer, he worked the farm and, occasionally, as a camp counselor. In doing all this, Mr. Beason contributed towards his tuition.
He faced challenges, like a broken arm from football practice, but he grew from them. He learned a lot about life. For example, he learned how to drive on the backroads of Camp Hill. He remembers when Eli Howell, 3rd president and alumnus of 1933, took him for his driving permit test in Dadeville, Alabama. Mr. Beason spent 3 years at The Southern before graduating in 1953.
After graduation, he immediately went to work in Birmingham delivering oil and batteries to gas stations. In 1965, Mr. Beason moved to California and began a career in the aircraft industry. He is thankful for the education he received and credits the physics and math he learned much in part for his success.
Mr. Beason retired in 1995 after building a successful career with the airline company. He currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, Sonya. He has 2 daughters, and a large and loving family of five generations.
Mr. Beason returned to campus for the first time in 2017, 64 years after his graduation. Since then, he’s been able to return a couple more times, including the annual Military Weekend.
He has been a friend and loyal supporter of the cause…he is actually our most loyal recurring donor of all time. Be it financial gifts, checking in on the staff, or sending words of encouragement, Mr. Beason has gone above and beyond. As the school has evolved, he has stood faithfully by.
I’ve gotten to know Mr. Jerry over the past couple of years, and I had the pleasure and honor of meeting him and Julie, his daughter, in person on campus recently.
70 years post graduation. Walking the grounds and remembering. Learning more about the campus and Mr. Jerry, and Julie, who in her own right is tied to the campus. Mr. Jerry and Julie’s mother met there. She lived and worked in the dining hall, now Ross Hall that still stands on campus today. Julie came along a few years after graduation and she is just as wonderful as her father.
His generosity has demonstrated time and time again, his belief in the value of an education and giving back to the place he once called home.
The medal was awarded at the 3rd Annual Board of Trustees Banquet. His meritorious service reflects great credit upon himself and the school. Thank you, Mr. Beason!