Longtime ties to MU, Columbia lead Becks to fund new scholarship
An annual scholarship dinner hosted by the MU College of Engineering offers alumni and friends of the College who have endowed scholarships the opportunity to meet the recipients of their generosity, and the students get to interact with philanthropic supporters. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 170 named scholarships provided approximately $1.1 million to 675 engineering students.
This year’s dinner, held Nov. 12, featured remarks from engineering alumnus Ray Beck, BS AgE ’56, MS CiE ’59 with an emphasis in sanitation. Beck and his wife established the Raymond A. and Delilah A. Beck Scholarship Fund in June 2014, and the couple met the scholarship’s first recipient at the dinner.
“The scholarship went to a young lady from the Kansas City area,” Beck said. “We got to talking, and she asked me if I knew Conner Beck, who is my nephew. All three of my oldest brother’s sons are engineers, and it turns out she knew another one of the boys from Kansas City, too. It’s a small world.”
After serving as an engineer in Missouri state government for three years, Beck worked with the City of Columbia for 46 years, first as city engineer/public works director before 20 years as city manager until his retirement in 2006 at age 73. During his stint with the city, he concurrently served as acting planning director for three years and acting director of water and light and emergency preparedness. He also served as acting city manager when necessary.
“I hired students to work with me in the summertime in public works for surveys and design,” said Beck. “By the time they were seniors, they were really good with basic engineering skills. Some of those kids became top consultants. It makes you feel good to see their success.”
Beck, a licensed professional engineer since 1962, additionally served as an active U.S. Army Reserve officer for a total of 23 years with more 20 years in civil affairs, retiring as lieutenant colonel in 1980.
Beck’s long career as an engineer has provided him with some Missouri State and Columbia “firsts.” He was one of the first three certified and licensed wastewater operators in Missouri. He started the first city bus system; the first storm water and solid waste utilities, including an award winning regional wastewater plant that was followed by wetlands; a regional airport; a volunteer services office; the Cultural Affairs Office — including the One Percent for the Arts program; and a city trust. Columbia’s parks and recreation program vastly expanded during his tenure, including one of the first trail systems in the state.
In March 2015, Beck was inducted into the Boone County Hall of Fame.
In addition to his service to the city, Beck has been affiliated with and honored by many civic and professional organizations and remains active in many of these roles. He is a member of both the Dean of Engineering’s Advisory Council and the MU Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Beck also continues to farm with more than 150 head of cattle, an activity that served as a retreat while he was working and one which he still greatly enjoys. He and his spouse Dee enjoy entertaining guests at the farm, particularly children who can visit and learn about rural life — including hayrides.
“We continue working on our estate plans. We’ve given to many causes while we are still living and hope to support as many programs as possible, including the Civil Engineering Academy and the Engineering Scholarship Fund,” he said.
“Our whole family has had success going through the University.
“My dad was a German immigrant in 1921, between WWI and WWII. It took him two years to become a U.S. citizen, an interesting process. Before passing away when I was 15, he instilled in me that nobody can take an education from you,” Beck said.
The engineering education Beck earned at MU has served him and thousands of others in the City of Columbia very well. And the scholarship he and Dee funded will continue to add to his legacy, one young engineer at a time.