Tony Beck says “Thanks” to his father, George
Tony Beck is the son of George Beck, our long-time Executive Director. He is also his brother, joining Pilam and graduating from Roanoake College in 1972. In honor of George’s 100th birthday anniversary, he wrote this letter.
When I started putting pen to paper for this article, it was Brother Beck’s 100th birthday, April 25, 2022. George Beck was a seven-year-old at the time of the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He attended college at the University of Virginia, joining the ranks of his fraternity brothers. Like many Americans of the Greatest Generation, he left school to join the Navy before he graduated, receiving a commission and serving as the Executive Officer on a minesweeper in the South Pacific. After the war ended, he returned to UVA and graduated from college. Years later he became the Executive Director of Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity.
As Executive Director, his travels to college chapters around the country brought him into contact with Deans of Students, “D” students and everyone in between. He had a remarkable memory for the names of the brothers and pledges he met along the way and a stamina for late nights and scotch that is legendary. For those who met him, he left a lasting impression. He spent decades working to improve Pi Lambda Phi, ushering the organization into the 21st century.
Many of you have written about your fraternity experiences, as well as those with Brother Beck, or shared them in conversations accompanied by a smile or the phrase “I remember the time…” Those are the memories that made our fraternity experiences formative, as well as long lasting. It is the glue that binds all of us as brothers.
As a pledge, and then a brother, I had many of the same experiences. However, my memories of Brother Beck emanate from a different place. He was, at different times, Dad, Pops, one-half of the rents, but always the father who taught me manners, respect and the perseverance to succeed and prosper in life. A large portion of those lessons came directly from the lessons he learned as a brother, and later as he worked to ensure the survival and success of the fraternity. He embodied the values and goals of the fraternity.
As an undergraduate I was worried about my status as the son of the executive director whenever there was a fraternity event that brought us together. I desperately wanted to be just another member of the fraternity, perceived just as any other pledge or brother who knew Brother Beck. Not as the son of the Executive Director.
After some discussions about this dilemma, it was agreed that whenever we found ourselves together at Pi Lam functions, I would call Brother Beck “G.B.” At home or at family functions he was still Pops, but we felt this would keep our relationship under the radar. Nonetheless, everyone at the Roanoke College chapter knew the charade. Even so, it worked pretty well.
I recall driving to a chapter party at the University of North Carolina. Back in those days road trips were pretty common, especially when we could drop in on parties at other chapters. I had met a girl at the party, and we had enjoyed more than one or two beers. George was there and I remember greeting him with an enthusiastic “Hi, G.B.” and introducing him to my date. The three of us talked for a while. Upon leaving, my date remarked that I seemed to know Brother Beck quite well. I responded by telling her “Yeah, we go back a few years.” Later, when I told my Dad what she said, both of us had a good laugh. Years later in graduate school, and by sheer coincidence, my friends decided to call me “T.B.” I can’t help but smile when I think about the resemblance.
These days, as I look in the mirror, I recognize my father’s eyes, hands and some of his gestures. The only thing that failed to stick was his love of Dewars scotch. Happily, the tradition is being continued by my son. Most importantly, I have inherited the guiding principles of the fraternity’s founders, as expressed in the Pi Lam Creed. Those propositions were taught long before I joined the fraternity, passed on by my father, to his son. They were burnished by my time as an undergraduate fraternity member and passed on to my children once I became a father. It is, and remains, one of the best lessons ever received.
I have enjoyed reading the memories of my Dad that have been shared by the brothers who knew him. My memories are equally as entertaining. However, it is the lessons I learned from him as a mentor that serve as the guideposts for my journeys. I think many would agree.
Tony Beck, Roanoke College ’72
Help preserve George’s legacy
Did George’s lifetime commitment to our brotherhood and values impact you? Consider helping endow the George Beck scholarship today.