George 1983 Conclave

Remembering George Beck: Weathering the storms

Shawn Mahoney ’92 – Temple University

I met George a few times as an undergrad. When you talked to him, he was affable, curious about where you came from, and interested in your aspirations. He always made you feel comfortable and was very much a father figure, a trait he likely developed as a Navy officer.

The thing I remember most about George was when our chapter went through a crisis in 1989. We were in hot water with the university because we hosted a party, and something bad happened after the party (that didn’t involve our brothers). But, it was possible that we didn’t completely follow all the rules.

George flew down to Philly the next day. We sent the Pilam “limo” to pick him up, a crappy, beat-up Datsun with a broken window with plastic taped over it. He took it in stride, even as the duct-taped plastic flapped in his ear.

George met with the university and interviewed brothers because he wanted to hear the story from both sides. When he listened to you, you got a sense that he could tell if he was being snowed. He took in all the accounts before calling a brotherhood meeting with our long-time chapter advisor, Jerry Balka ’51. Jerry was a seasoned Philadelphia trial attorney who had heard it all. He was our chapter advisor/consigliere since the 60s. He was the “red phone” that the rex picked up when something went very wrong. And he was not a man to be trifled with.

While George and Jerry were telling the brothers about our situation and of potential consequences, a few guys, some officers, were not taking it seriously. They were wise-cracking and making light of our predicament. Jerry didn’t see the humor. He unleashed a torrent of colorfully-worded reprimands that erased any thoughts that this was not serious. All, the while, George sat there calmly, listening and observing. 

The next day, George called another meeting. He announced that our chapter’s leadership would be replaced by the newly elected executive board, effective immediately. I had just been elected Archon a week before. I was terrified, but felt ready to do my part.

In that crisis, I witnessed what leadership was all about. Sometimes that meant assessing a situation and making hard decisions for the good of the fraternity. I always felt that George “had our back,” but he also did what he felt was right. 

His example is one of the reasons I stayed involved in Pi Lambda Phi so long after collecting my shingle.

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Honor George with a donation

George generously funded many scholarships in his retirement. To honor George, we are asking brothers to help grow the fund George created to recognize our outstanding undergraduates. Anyone wishing to honor George may designate a donation to the George A. Beck Fund.