Worthy of a statue

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

As with many things in life, it seems that those who value education the most are the ones who have to work hardest as a result of lacking it. We tend to place the highest value on the things that are the hardest won, and folks who have made something of themselves in spite of lacking advanced formal education — in other words, those who have done well because of hard work, determination and harsh experience — often look back and think of how much more they might have accomplished with a solid educational foundation.

The late Fred W. Beazley strikes us as that kind of person. During the first half of the 20th century, when Beazley was 15, he left school and struck out on his own, borrowing $15 to buy a horse-drawn cart and starting a business delivering coal from door to door in Portsmouth. Soon, the young entrepreneur realized that people needed ice, too, and he went on to establish 50 ice factories. He would become a self-made millionaire during a time when millionaires of any stripe were still pretty unusual.

Mr. Beazley’s level of success gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the wealthiest and most important men of his time. But he always felt himself to be at a disadvantage to those others because of his educational deficiency.

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So it was that Beazley decided to donate the land that would, in 1961, become the first campus of Frederick College. Located at the confluence of the James and the Nansemond rivers in what was then Nansemond County, Frederick College would become the “Portsmouth Campus” of Tidewater Community College in 1968.

“It was a dream that Mr. Beazley had to educate as many young people as he possibly could, to give them the opportunity that he didn’t have,” said Judge Richard Bray, president of the Beazley Foundation, which continues to honor Beazley’s memory by administering the estate he left behind and directing funds to worthy community projects.

The occasion of Judge Bray’s remarks last week was the unveiling of a statue of Fred Beazley on the new campus of Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, where the college moved from Suffolk a couple of years ago. The new campus reflects the excellent financial position the college is in as it seeks to develop and sell the Beazley-donated property in Suffolk that was left behind in the transfer.

Everybody seems to have been dealt a winning hand with the college’s move to Portsmouth. Folks near the core of Hampton Roads have a college campus closer to them; folks in Suffolk will watch as some new development alternative takes shape on the old campus; and TCC will reap incredible financial rewards from the eventual sale of that property.

And it’s all because a man had a desire to make the path a bit straighter for those who came behind him. That’s worthy of a statue.