Former students and colleagues remember Professor Beatty and reflect on his enduring legacy

8.26.2021 Alumni News, Faculty News, School News

By Tina Bice | bicejb@wfu.edu

Wake Forest University announced on August 10 that beloved educator Bernard Lee “Bern” Beatty, retired associate professor of management in the business school, passed away on August 4, at the age of 92. Former students, mentees, colleagues and friends have shared stories and reflections about Beatty’s profound impact on their lives. Alumni have also honored his legacy with gifts in his name, which will continue to benefit Wake Forest students for years to come.

Beatty is remembered for his kindness, mentorship, generosity and the way he inspired his students to grow professionally and personally to make a difference in the world. He taught accounting, management and case writing at Wake Forest for 42 years, from 1974 to 2016. Beatty was recognized as a Babcock Educator of the Year six times between 1975 and 2003.

“Professor Beatty’s impact on the lives of so many Demon Deacons is truly unmatched,” said Charles Iacovou, former dean of the School of Business. Iacovou is now dean of the School of Professional Studies and vice provost for Charlotte Programs. “The engaging courses and international experiences he led over the years provided impactful learning opportunities to his students and helped them stretch their managerial acumen, critical thinking and global mindset. Professor Beatty always sought to tackle big ideas with all of his academic endeavors and invited the students to be his equal partners in those intellectual explorations,” Iacovou said.

“Alumni, and particularly our MBA alumni, frequently ask about Dr. Beatty,” said Michelle Roehm, interim dean of the School of Business. “They are quick to say how grateful they are for the special role he played in their development as business leaders and as citizens of the world. I was honored to serve alongside him as a colleague. He will be greatly missed.”

Scholarship and Colloquium

Beatty’s legacy lives on not only in the memory of his students and colleagues but also through the eponymous Bern Beatty Colloquium in Farrell Hall and endowed Bern Beatty Scholarship. The Bern Beatty Faculty Fellowship, an endowed School of Business professorship, is also named in his honor. The Bern Beatty Scholarship was established in 2004 by Charlie Ergen (MBA ’76, LLD ’12, P ’12, P ’17) and Candy Ergen (P ’12, P ’17) of Littleton, Colorado, in honor of Professor Beatty. The fund provides full-tuition scholarships, awarded annually, to extraordinary graduate students in the Wake Forest University School of Business.

“It is no exaggeration to say that Bern Beatty was one of the most influential people in my life. As a professor, he taught me – with great passion, expertise and excellence – the principles of business and entrepreneurship. As a mentor in the professional world, he inspired me to remain clear-eyed and flexible, ready to adapt and lead in the marketplace. And as a person, he provided loyal support, honest critique and enduring friendship. My life was changed when I met Bern Beatty at Wake Forest, and for that, I am forever grateful,” Charlie Ergen said.

“We talk a lot about the qualities of a good leader, and Bern Beatty was one of the best leaders I have encountered. He led with sterling character and admirable integrity. He cared about those around him – always seeking ways to encourage and lift others up, but not at the expense of being honest and forthright,” said Candy Ergen, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees. “He sought excellence from those around him, including the thousands of students who sat in his classroom and learned from his teaching. But most of all, he was deeply committed to his family – his wife, Beth, his children and grandchildren, and his extended Wake Forest family. Bern Beatty was an exemplary member of the Wake Forest community, and many will miss him dearly.”

The Bern Beatty Scholarship was first awarded at the start of the 2005-06 academic year, the competitive and prestigious scholarship is granted to adventurous applicants with exceptional promise for contributing to society through the ethical application of capitalistic ideas. Financial need is also considered when candidates’ qualifications are of roughly equal merit. In addition to full tuition, scholarship recipients are given priority for summer intern positions with EchoStar Communications Corp. (Dish Network) when internships are available.

Since 2005, there have been nineteen Bern Beatty Scholars who have received awards totaling $1,045,065.

Bern Beatty Scholar Karl Burns (MBA ’08) said, “Getting to know Bern while at school gave me such pleasure. He not only challenged us in the classroom and inspired us as a mentor, but he also related to us as human beings with a passion for life and experience.

“I was told that the Bern Beatty Scholarship was supposed to be awarded to an ‘adventurous’ scholar – one who took pride in blazing their own trail. If you look up where the Scholars are now, we are all over the globe, and almost all of us keep track of each other even ten years after graduation,” said Burns. “It takes a special person to start that kind of fraternity, but we are all in it forever, thanks to Bern.”

Reflections

Colleagues, friends, mentees and scholars shared these reflections about their time with Professor Beatty and his tremendous impact:

  • Lori Bremer (MBA ’07), inaugural Bern Beatty Scholarship recipient

“When I think about Dr. Beatty, the thing that stands out most is his larger-than-life personality. After my selection for the inaugural eponymous scholarship, we met for lunch and, as a fellow veteran, he regaled me with one hilarious story after another. He was absolutely brilliant and had a unique gift for making every single person he talked to feel valued and special. Insofar as the scholarship changed my life, it simply pales in comparison to my relationship and interactions with Bern. I am truly a better person for knowing him.”

  • Ed Roberson (’01, MBA ’09), Bern Beatty Scholarship recipient

“Bern was one of the most influential mentors of my adult life, and his selecting me for the Bern Beatty Scholarship was the most impactful and foundational moment of my career. Thanks to Bern, I received a top-notch, extremely useful education and was able to pursue business and creative ventures that simply would not have been possible had I been saddled with debt. But even more importantly, Bern encouraged me to think for myself, take ‘the road less traveled,’ and pursue (possibly crazy) opportunities with vigor, confidence, humility, and a healthy sense of humor. Without Bern’s encouragement and guidance, I have no idea what I would be doing right now, but I am certain it would not be as interesting, worthwhile, or fulfilling. I will miss Bern dearly, and I am perpetually grateful for his generosity.”

  • Christopher Steighner (MBA ’10), Bern Beatty Scholarship recipient

“As a transitioning Army Officer entering graduate school, Bern was a great mentor, friend and confidant. I often sought refuge from the stress of class in his office, where he would share a good story, and we would share a good laugh. He was a guiding influence in my life and a constant source of humble wisdom.”

  • Stacy Poindexter Owen, executive director of alumni engagement for the School of Business and former director of Graduate business admissions; Owen worked closely with Bern Beatty for nine years on identifying potential Scholar candidates.

“My team had a great time searching for the ideal candidate for Bern – he was very specific about a preference for those with unique life experiences, who had a good story to tell, who had demonstrated a sense of adventure. Our Scholars included a non-traditional student who went to school at night while she was a paratrooper in the Army; one who liked working on cars, cooking and reading; another had climbed the highest peaks on multiple continents; and one enlisted in the Army after graduating from college because he felt it was his duty. Each fall, Bern and I would take his newest Scholar to lunch, which gave him a chance to meet them face to face, ask questions, and get to know them. He was so proud of this group and loved following their lives and careers after graduation. But the feeling was mutual, as they had a very special relationship with him, as well.”

  • Lynn Ebert, administrative assistant for the MSBA program and Beatty’s friend and colleague of 30 years

“I started working with Bern in 1986, and it was soon very apparent to me that Bern not only was extremely knowledgeable in his subject matter – he was a leader and was well-respected by his peers. Students admired him, maybe not understanding at the time why they were learning their topics, but after graduation, many would keep in contact with him and occasionally ask for his guidance in their work lives, as well as their personal lives. For many years Bern led student trips to various overseas locations to study business practices. Those trips were legendary!

The Bern Beatty Colloquium, being named in his honor, was something in which Bern took great pride. He was not a “show off” kind of person, but the BBC (as we call it here in Farrell Hall) humbled Bern knowing that he mattered not only to current students but alumni as well.”

  • Ajay Patel, professor and Thomas S. Goho Chair in Finance for the School of Business; Patel joined Wake Forest University in 1993. While at Wake Forest, he has served as associate dean for Faculty and Alumni Affairs (2002 – 2004) and interim dean and dean (2003 – 2008) of the Babcock Graduate School of Management. He served as the director of the Center for Enterprise Research and Education between 2010 and 2015 and as faculty director for Global Business Outreach from 2008 to 2014.

“Bern was a wonderful addition to the Babcock Graduate School of Management. Because he joined the Babcock School in its infancy, he was part of the team that was instrumental in helping shape the culture of the institution and what the institution stood for. Bern strongly believed in the Socratic method of teaching. He was tough on his students but felt that it was his responsibility to get those graduate students to think through the problem at hand and learn how to apply the content being taught to relevant practical situations. Because of his focus on application, his teaching focused heavily on the case method rather than on theory.

My first memory of Bern was when I was interviewing on campus for an open Assistant Professor of Finance position at the Babcock Graduate School of Management. That was in January 1993. The faculty and staff had just moved into the brand new Worrell Professional Center. As was typical with faculty interviews at the Babcock School, I was to meet with faculty across all areas of Management, not just the finance faculty. During my meeting with Bern, he grilled me on my teaching philosophy. He heard that I had used cases in my finance electives in both the undergraduate and MBA programs at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where I was teaching at that time. To verify that I really used cases, he asked me to tell him which ones I used in my electives for each program, the teaching objective for using those specific cases and my thoughts on those cases. It was very clear that he wanted to make sure that I had not gone on Harvard Business School Publishing’s website and looked up the names of some cases and was using that for my claim. By the end of the meeting, I think I had convinced him that I honestly did have experience using cases in my classes. I think it also helped that I had won three teaching awards in back-to-back years from the MBA students. Bern clearly felt very strongly about quality teaching in the classroom.

After I joined the faculty at Wake Forest University, it took quite a while for Bern to open up to me. I would pass him in the hallways and might get a ‘hello’ from him. I think he was still unsure of whether or not I would be a good fit with what he felt was important within the Babcock culture. This was a period in time when the Babcock School was transitioning from a teaching-focused institution to one that valued both disciplined-based research and teaching. I was one of several recent hires who were brought in because of their research and teaching potential. Over time, Bern warmed up to me – perhaps because I would go to his office off and on to ask for his guidance on certain accounting issues I needed for my classes. Proving my teaching skills, as evidenced by awards I won across most of our MBA programs, certainly helped convey that I cared about teaching and our students. That was very important to Bern.

What I remember most about Bern was his desire to cultivate a global mindset within our graduate students. He not only taught at academic institutions overseas, but he also took our students on international trips during the summer. Bern was very entrepreneurial as well. He constantly had new ideas about education that he wanted to implement. If he felt resistance within the Babcock Graduate School of Management, he went off and did it on his own. An example is his co-founding of the Certified MBA program and The Accounting Oasis. He also felt very strongly about the case method. He was very involved with the case writing initiative within CEEMAN (Central and East European Management Development Association).

While my interaction with Bern might have been more limited than some faculty at the former Babcock Graduate School of Management, I will always remember Bern fondly. He pushed me to become a better version of myself. And, I am sure he did that to many of his other colleagues as well.”