A Lifetime Love of Learning: Jane Beasley endows scholarship in memory of her mother
“She was the smartest person I ever knew.” High praise, indeed, but especially so in coming from an accomplished attorney who is comfortable among the Ivy League
intelligentsia and the European elite, the Fortune 500 Board Rooms, and the highest tribunals of two continents. Yet, that is the sincere assessment of 1974 alumna Ms. Jane Beasley, in establishing a scholarship in honor of her mother, Marion Horne Beasley.
Actually, the story begins with Jane’s grandmother, Mrs. Jennie McInnis Horne, who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Louisville, Ala. She believed so strongly in the value of education that, in 1934, during the throes of the Great Depression, she and her husband packed Marion, then 17 and the eldest of three daughters, off to Troy Normal School with, as Marion later said, “two dresses and five dollars…I would wear one dress while I washed the other.” She nonetheless succeeded, earning her degree and teaching certificate in elementary education in 1936, and she returned to Barbour County to teach in the Louisville public schools where she was barely older than some of her students.
But Marion’s education did not stop there. She had inherited her mother’s love for learning; she remained an avid student all her life, returning to TROY numerous times over a 40-year period, eventually acquiring three degrees from her beloved alma mater. She began her continuing education by completing extension courses during the 1939-40 school year and in, the summer of 1940, returned to begin work on her baccalaureate degree. She completed additional extension courses during the 1941-42 school year, but soon afterward met and married Durwood Beasley, a young man returning from active military duty in North Africa during World War II. Over the next several years, they had four children, and Marion spent that time as a wife, mother and teacher. As soon as possible, she resumed her studies, and in the summer of 1957, with four small children at home, returned to Troy State Teachers College, completing all requirements for the B.S. degree in elementary education in the summer of 1958, and earning additional credits to enhance her teaching in the summer of 1959.
Marion passed along her and her mother’s love for learning to her own children, and in the days when few high school graduates attended college, she not only continued her own education but also enrolled all four of her children at Troy State. When, in 1970, she returned to begin graduate study, she was enrolled at the same time that three of her children were pursuing undergraduate degrees at what was now Troy State University. She completed the M.S. degree in elementary education in 1972, and in 1974, she returned one last time to enroll, along with her son Bill, who was by then also a teacher, in a course for supervising teachers, with both earning certification to supervise and direct student interns.
In her teaching career in rural Barbour County, Marion taught elementary school but was also drafted to teach high school classes ranging from English to biology, and was proficient in all of them. As her daughter recalled, “Whenever there was a homework question I couldn’t answer, I would go to her, and no matter the subject, be it physics, literature or algebra, she always knew the answer.” She was an exemplary teacher who was devoted to learning and teaching, and for that she was loved and respected not only by her family but also by her students, her colleagues, and her community. In testimony to her influence, a former student many years later said of her, “She was smart as a cricket.” In Barbour County, Ala., you don’t get any sharper than that.
In endowing the scholarship, Ms. Jane Beasley seeks to reward deserving female students who have matriculated in the College of Education later in life. Preferences will be given to applicants who are currently employed in or who plan to seek employment in rural schools, as well as those who are residents of Barbour County.
After earning her B.S. degree from Troy State University, Ms. Jane Beasley taught briefly at Eufaula High School before attending law school. She earned the Juris Doctorate at the University of Kentucky, garnering such honors as Law Review and Order of the Coif. In her legal career, mainly with the prestigious firm of Shearman and Sterling, she has practiced in New York and London, specializing in securities law as well as mergers and acquisitions. She has also been diligent in service as a member of the board for many organizations, among them the Metropolitan Opera, Discovery Museum, Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), and Fordham University.
In establishing the generous endowment, she remarked, “I wanted to memorialize my mother with Troy University scholarships because Troy Normal School, Troy State Teachers College and Troy State University provided her with an educational experience that was important to her – personally, professionally and financially.”
One of the distinguishing hallmarks of Troy University’s storied tradition of teacher education is the number of alumnae who, for a variety of reasons, earned their teaching degrees and certification as mature women and then went on to have impressive careers as educators – many of them in rural communities. When reminded of this fact, Jane remarked, “Wouldn’t it be great if people who shared similar experiences – as teacher, student or citizen – decided to contribute to the Marion Horne Beasley Scholarship Endowment so that Troy University could prepare even more teachers to make a positive difference in the lives of students?”
Yes, indeed it would.
Davis is a former provost and past chair of the Department of English at Troy University.