By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
When Rick Beyer was elected as the first lay president of Wheeling Jesuit University (now known as Wheeling University) in 2010, he was immediately aware of the enormous responsibility he was about to take on: to maintain the Jesuit heritage and mission of the institution as its first lay leader. “Leading a Jesuit institution means taking very seriously the mission and being able to not just talk about things, but to actually live deeply in Ignatian spirituality,” he said.
Before coming to Wheeling, Beyer spent two decades in senior management for several tech companies including QUALCOMM and Trimble Navigation. He also served on the board of trustees for his alma mater, Olivet College in Michigan, which led to an alignment of his work in higher education and a position on the board of directors for the Association of Governing Boards (AGB).
In early 2010, Wheeling Jesuit sought a non-traditional president, and contacted AGB for recommendations. Through AGB, Beyer learned about the opportunity and reached out to Rev. Charles L. Currie, S.J., then president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and a former president of Wheeling Jesuit, to learn more about the school and the role. Beyer said, “Leading up to Wheeling, I got to know Charlie, and he was very helpful and really a mentor to me.”
Shortly after becoming president, Beyer learned of a new program that Fr. Currie had helped to develop, which was designed for senior lay leaders at Jesuit colleges and universities to strengthen their understanding of Ignatian spirituality and the long tradition of Jesuit higher education. Beyer said, “I was introduced to the Ignatian Colleagues Program, and then became the first lay president to go through ICP. It’s a wonderful program of great depth of intellectual and spiritual development.”
Through ICP and AJCU, Beyer and his wife, Cindy, became friends with Fr. Currie. After Fr. Currie passed away in January 2019, Beyer began thinking of ways that he could honor his memory and give back to the AJCU network. After completing a 3-year term as president of Wheeling Jesuit in 2013, Beyer continued his affiliation with AGB and became an investor in education technology. He served as CEO of Lumerit Education, a company that provides pathway programs to help students complete their college degrees on time. After Lumerit was acquired by Pearson Education in October 2019, Beyer decided to turn his investments in a new direction.
With a $100,000 gift, Beyer is establishing the Charles Currie, S.J. Scholarship Program to support future participants in the Ignatian Colleagues Program. He said, “With good fortune from the sale of Lumerit, it was important for me to give back and reflect on the people who helped me along the way because you never reach important milestones by yourself. There are always very strong, positive influences on one’s life and so it was important with the passing of Charlie and [reflecting on] the significant impact that ICP had on me, that I do something to honor him and also provide a spark for additional lay people to go through ICP.”
Since its founding in 2009, more than 500 administrators and faculty from Jesuit colleges and universities and affiliated Jesuit organizations have completed ICP. The program runs for 18 months and consists of online learning workshops, an international immersion experience, an Ignatian silent retreat, a mission project and in-person summer workshop, and a capstone experience. Many participants have gone on to advanced leadership roles, including provosts, vice presidents, deans and faculty at Jesuit institutions.
According to Joe DeFeo, executive director of ICP, Beyer’s gift will make a significant impact. He said, “We are so very grateful for Rick’s gift to the Ignatian Colleagues Program. His generosity honors Fr. Currie and will provide the opportunity for more senior leaders and faculty at our Jesuit institutions to participate in ICP and deepen their understanding of the Jesuit and Catholic mission on their home campuses and across the AJCU network. Mission really matters in this day and age, and Rick’s gift makes learning about our mission possible.”
It’s been more than seven years since he competed ICP, but Beyer still lives by the lessons he learned through the program and his time at Wheeling Jesuit. He said, “I continue to try and practice the Spiritual Exercises daily and incorporate them into my life. ICP is an incredibly impactful program and I’m so grateful to have participated. Having the scholarship will allow more people to go through it, and keep Fr. Currie’s legacy alive.”
To learn more about the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), please visit ignatiancolleagues.org.