Amy Beach ’94

Amy Beach '94

Alumna Profile

Tell us about your Dickinson experience.

I enjoyed my time at Dickinson. I won’t say it was “fun-filled.” I found the academics challenging, but I was proud to be attending a well-respected school. I enjoyed walking across campus. No matter the season, it was a beautiful campus and my idea of what a college should look like. I thought the small size of the school to be an asset, and I found most of my fellow students to be a good combination of academically serious, fun-loving and friendly.

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?

In essence, the benefit of a liberal-arts education is that it prepares you for life as a mature and productive person in an ever-changing world. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what a liberal-arts education really is.

A liberal-arts education gives you both a breadth and depth of academic experience. The curriculum exposes you to a range of disciplines: natural sciences, social sciences and humanities—maybe even creative arts. The depth of experience comes from what one decides to major in. You get to do a deep dive into an area of interest. You go from a knowledge level of learning to the ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate—and, perhaps, ultimately to create and bring something new into the world. A liberal-arts education not only exposes you to different ideas but differing ways of making sense of our experiences and method of inquiry. The outcome of a liberal-arts education is not so much the accumulation of knowledge but rather developing your capacity to acquire knowledge, solve problems and gain understanding—to think.

When I was near graduation, I still did not have a clue of what I wanted to do in life, but I felt I had been prepared for whatever I chose. I suspect many, if not most, of my classmates felt the same way, and we ended up doing things we had never thought of or didn’t even know existed. Perhaps more important, many of the jobs the class of 2022 will have don’t yet exist. They need to be ready for whatever comes. That is the value of a liberal-arts education.

What inspired your gift to Dickinson? 

Several things: gratitude, altruism and ego. My dad was an Army officer and my mom was a full-time mom. We were not poor, but I was the middle child of three kids, and we were all two years a part. I could not have afforded to attend Dickinson College without financial help, and Dickinson was good to me in that respect and even increased my scholarship and grant money each year. So I want to give back as generously as I can.

Furthermore, I hope my giving helps others who might be in the same position I was in; there are a lot of good students out there who have the same needs I had. The more money Dickinson has, the more it can help them.

Finally, I am a proud graduate of Dickinson. It is an academically excellent school and, as I have mentioned, it has a beautiful campus. I think, however, too many alumni of various colleges spend their time reveling in the past and extolling the rigor and glory of their school’s bygone days. But I want Dickinson to be even better than when I attended, and I want Dickinson to continue to become even better. For example, I see we have our first Truman Scholar. That’s terrific. Let it not be the last! An enhanced college reputation not only boosts my ego but makes my degree more financially valuable! I hope my consistent giving contributes to making this happen.

 What do you hope your gift will do for fellow Dickinsonians?             

I want current and future Dickinsonians to attend an even better Dickinson College than I, my classmates and those who came before us attended. As far as my classmates and fellow alums go, maybe it will motivate them to set aside some money each year to give.

Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?  

Admittedly, there are many worthwhile causes in the world that could use our donations. Each one of us needs to consider that when deciding to donate. I have shared some of the reasons I make an annual donation, and most of it boils down to helping Dickinson continue to become ever better.

Dickinson is a private institution. It is not state or federally funded, and expenses are always increasing. Alumni donations help it meet its budgetary needs and enables the funding of projects that would otherwise not be possible. This, in turn, allows Dickinson to attract more applicants and high-caliber faculty.

There are also the intangible rewards. It is a way of staying involved and maintaining a sense of connection and belonging to the Dickinson community, which is actively engaged in doing good things and making our world a better place. It’s a way of creating a legacy for future generations of Dickinsonians. Personally, that gives me a sense of satisfaction. I think others would feel the same.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson? 

I’m not sure I have one in particular. I loved walking across campus, thinking it was beautiful and feeling glad to be at Dickinson. Like most, I suspect, I remember dorm bull sessions. I think we learn as much from each other as we do from classroom lectures and work assignments. I certainly had more answers to the world problems in those days than I do now!

Can you tell us about what you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.? 

I majored in history, with a focus on American history. I am still fascinated by people from our past—our founders, and those in the Civil War era. Though far from perfect human beings, they set the foundations for this incredible country, which, even with its flaws, is the envy of the world. I do a lot of reading. I’ve read a great deal about Lincoln and the Civil War. That’s really my favorite era, and I am a great admirer of Lincoln. A while back I decided to read biographies of all our presidents. I’m up to McKinley, so I still have a long way to go. I’ve been a career Coast Guard officer and so I have moved every three years for nearly 30 years. I always make a point of visiting historic sites in every state in which I have lived. My interest in our history continues to grow.

I have continued my education. I have earned two master’s degrees: a degree in environmental protection and public safety from St. Joseph’s College and one in strategic studies from the Naval War College. I’ve also earned a certificate in leadership and management from MIT. These were work-related endeavors.

I like to go to movies, and I love country music. Other than that, I am not married and have no kids, so I do my best to be my three nephews’ and three nieces’ favorite aunt.

What is one piece of advice you would give to today’s students? 

Practice thinking!  Passion is a wonderful thing. Too often, however, our emotions exceed our knowledge. This is particularly true in our college-age years. Too often it seems, in our public discourse, depth of thinking has succumbed to the increased volume of expression and hyperbolic vilifications. None of the hot-button issues of today, or any time, have easy solutions, and people who have very different views are generally not evil and may well have ideas worthy of our consideration. Evaluate ideas based on their merit; don’t reflexively accept or dismiss them based on their source.

It's almost cliché to say that an education should not teach you what to think but how to think. The fact that it’s a cliché makes it no less true. Aristotle asserted: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I would like for today’s students and future students to keep in mind the power of critical thinking. It is, after all, the hallmark of a true liberal-arts education.

Read more donor profiles.


Published July 15, 2022