Washington State Magazine

Spring 2009

Spring 2009


In This Issue...


What Is Art For? :: Art, says independent scholar Ellen Dissanayake '57, is "making special." It is an act that gives us a sense of belonging and meaning. It is passed from mother to child. Its origins lie deep in our evolutionary past. It makes us human. by Tim Steury

The Love Letters :: In 1907, Othello had no high school, so Xerpha Mae McCulloch '30 traveled 50 miles to Ritzville to finish school. There she met, and fell in love with, Edward Gaines, a few years her senior. The recent gift to Washington State University of her steamer trunk reveals the life of a woman whose story is not only threaded through the University's, but also through the story of agriculture in Washington State. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Photos and letters from Xerpha's trunk }

You Must Remember This :: Having reached a certain age, our correspondent sets out to learn the latest from Washington State University researchers about memory. She learns that memory comes in different forms, that the human brain is made for problem-solving, and that the key to much of brain health is the "dendritic arbor." And then she sets out to create an action plan. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe's work to help people with memory loss }


Privacy and the Words of the Dead :: Do we violate the privacy of the dead when we read what they wrote for themselves? Maybe it depends on our purposes. by Will Hamlin

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Annotated pages from early English editions of Montaigne's Essays. }




:: SPORTS: Coaching with heart

:: GREEN PAGES: Building green

:: A gift toward fuel research

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Yucatecan lentil soup recipe }


Cover photo: Bryan Hall clock tower reflected in the Abelson-Heald skybridge windows on the Pullman campus. By Zach Mazur.

Wallis Beasley worked at WSU for 33 years, serving as professor, department chair, and interim president. <em>Photo WSU News Service.</em>

Wallis Beasley worked at WSU for 33 years, serving as professor, department chair, and interim president. Photo WSU News Service.

Wallis Beasley, 92 - Sociologist, administrator, interim WSU president

by | © Washington State University

From young faculty member to acting president, Wallis Beasley had a profound influence on the direction of Washington State University.

Beasley died at age 92 of age-related causes at Bishop Place in Pullman on May 20, 2008.

He was born in Red Bay, Alabama, on October 8, 1915, the youngest of seven children born to J. T. and Emma Shamblin Beasley. He attended Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he met Totsie Smith, whom he married. They had more than 40 years together.

After serving for a brief time as a minister of the Church of Christ, he enrolled at Peabody University in Nashville, Tennessee, earning a Ph.D. in sociology. He taught briefly at Pepperdine University before moving to The State College of Washington (now Washington State University) in Pullman. Beasley rose quickly through the ranks at WSU. While serving as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, his department received national recognition for its recruitment of African-American graduate students. The University established a national reputation for producing outstanding sociologists of color, and WSU and the Department of Sociology were awarded the Dubois/Johnson/Frazier Award, the first department or institution to be so honored.

Over his WSU career, Beasley chaired many university committees and served as the faculty athletic representative to the Pacific Athletic Conference (now the Pac-10). President C. Clement French appointed him academic vice president, and upon French’s retirement, the WSU Board of Regents appointed him interim president of the University, a post he served with distinction for nearly a year, until the arrival of Glenn Terrell as president in July of 1967. Gen DeVleming, long-time assistant to presidents French, Beasley, Terrell, and Samuel Smith, noted,“Beasley’s appointment as president was well received. He kept WSU moving; he understood WSU very well and he was respected by his faculty colleagues.

“He always said that making no decision was the worst way for an administrator to manage—a decision at least moved the institution in one direction and did not permit chaos to fill the void, and a direction could be altered by a later decision if it were deemed necessary.”

As his retirement neared, the WSU Board of Regents approved naming the largest building on campus The Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum “in recognition of 33 years of distinguished leadership to the University Community as a teacher, administrator, and civic leader, 1949-1981.”

Following retirement, the Beasleys moved to Port Ludlow, hoping to enjoy some fishing. Totsie died in 1986, and Wallis later married Constance Robertson, a Port Ludlow neighbor who was also widowed. There, with Art and Helen Brunstad and other Cougar alumni, they hosted reunions for alumni and other friends of the University.

Beasley is survived by four nieces and six nephews, some still living in Red Bay, Alabama, where he is honored in the local museum for his WSU achievements.

Categories: WSU faculty, WSU history | Tags: WSU staff, In memoriam

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