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In Memoriam: Burton Beers

Burton Beers
Burton Beers.

Burton Floyd Beers, professor emeritus of history, passed away on Jan. 30, 2016. 

Beers served as a member of NC State’s history faculty from 1955 until his retirement in 1996. He earned a reputation as a teacher-scholar, an advocate of public education, a leader and public servant. He will be remembered for his dedication to his students and colleagues, his love of family and friends, and the positive outlook that rubbed off on everyone around him.

In 1998, he received the Watauga Medal — the highest nonacademic honor bestowed by the university — in recognition of his lifelong contributions to education and public service. He was the first to receive the Board of Trustees’ Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence, the highest honor given to university faculty members. During the course of his career at NC State, he was also awarded two Outstanding Teacher Awards, was named Alumni Distinguished Professor, and received an NC State Alumni Association citation for Outstanding Service and Dedication. 

Beers served as head of the Department of History from 1981 to 1985. In 1986, he and Murray Downs published North Carolina State University: A Pictorial History. In appreciation for their work, the Alumni Association endowed Caldwell Scholarships in their names. 

Beers was a tireless supporter of public school education in North Carolina. He presented countless history programs for teachers and students across the state for the NC State Humanities Extension Program. In the 1990s, he served as chief executive editor of the Humanities Extension/Publications’ social studies book project. Under his leadership, textbooks for grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 were completed and adopted by the State Board of Education.

Beers also participated in regional and national historical organizations. In 1993, the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society awarded him its Christopher Crittenden Memorial Award for preservation of North Carolina history. A favorite topic of research later in his career was the rich connection between North Carolina and China.

Beers was preceded in death by Pauline, his wife of 63 years. He is survived by his two children and their families, and by an extended network of family, friends, former students and colleagues.

A reception to celebrate Burt Beers’ life will be held at the home of Martha and Billy Williams in Greenville, North Carolina, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The family will hold a private memorial service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville. Contributions may be made in Burt Beers’ honor to the North Carolina Symphony, 3700 Glenwood Ave., Suite 130, Raleigh, NC 27612 or the NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences Enhancement Fund, Campus Box 7474, Raleigh, NC, 27695-7474.

This article draws from an obituary in the Greenville Daily Reflector. 

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  1. Burt Beers was one of a kind and a profound influence on every aspect of my development from the beginning of my career at NC State. He possessed all the traits one would hope to find in a colleague, teacher and friend, including a generosity of spirit that was unmatched. His passionate devotion to this university is legendary. Despite the lingering effects of childhood polio and the use of leg braces and crutches, he unfailingly showed up for every meeting of every committee, irrespective of where it was held. Burt was a source of inspiration and devotion that made all of us who were the young cubs seek to stand a fraction as tall as he by the measures that really matter. I will be eternally grateful that I was part of his time in this world and on this campus.

    Cathy Crossland
    Professor of Special Education
    Director of the Diagnostic Teaching Clinic

  2. I had the pleasure of having a few classes with Dr. Beers. As I attended my last 2 years of school at night while working full time during the day. I was lucky to have great professors like him to “keep me awake” and interested in my courses. Dr. Beers helped me attain my goal of a college education at NC State and for that I am grateful.

    I received this loss in an email in the midst of a very busy day and the sadness of this news made me take pause to remember Dr. Beers and realize how precious our lives are.

    1. Burton Beers was one of the four most inspiring professors that I encountered in my many years at N. C. State with both his teaching ability and his handling of life. A truly
      remarkable man.