Ronald S. Beard, who assumed a leadership role at Denison as a student that he maintained even as he rose to prominence in the legal realm, died April 9, 2022.
Voted president of the 1961 class, he served the university in many capacities, including more than three decades on the Board of Trustees, during which he was its chair for five years. Beard, 83, donated his time, money, and his ability to network on Denison’s behalf.
Although his responsibilities as a lawyer and legal strategist in Los Angeles were consuming, Beard relentlessly advocated for his alma mater. He organized reunions. He endowed scholarships. He helped navigate Denison through challenging years in the 1990s.
“He was a great champion for the college,” says Julie Houpt ’75, a lawyer and former Denison vice president for institutional advancement. “He always said yes whenever he could.”
The Scarsdale, New York, native earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics before attending law school at Yale University. Beard joined the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles as a partner in 1971 and eventually became its chair 20 years later.
“He was a man of great character and was known for his uncompromising integrity,” says Kenneth Doran, who worked alongside Beard for two decades at the law firm and followed him as its chair in 2002. “Being around Ron made you comfortable, made you see the bright side of things.”
It was in Los Angeles where Beard, Houpt, and fellow alums Paul Hylbert and Dean Hansell connected and became active in the local chapter of the Denison Club in the 1980s. Beard had already begun his 35-year run on the university’s board of trustees, starting in 1975. His leadership was particularly influential during some lean years for Denison in the 1990s, Houpt says.
Mary Jane Armacost ’62 spent more than two decades on the board with Beard, and recalls his skills as a negotiator and a unifier. “Ron worked closely with both the administration and the board to build a strong and very relevant position for Denison’s future,” Armacost wrote in an email.
Beard, a vice president of the Alumni Society and National Annual Fund chair, proved to be a savvy recruiter. He helped establish an academic pipeline from Southern California to Granville, Houpt recalls, and wanted to expand the university’s footprint with scholarship offers to international students. This past semester, 18% of students at Denison were from outside the United States.
Granted life trustee status in 2010, Beard frequently spoke of the value of a liberal arts education, says Karin Paridee-Beard, his wife of 35 years. She often attended board meetings and reunions with her husband, and she remembers it wasn’t uncommon for fellow Denisonians to recognize him in an airport.
After leaving the law firm, Beard worked as a consultant and legal advisor for Zeughauser Group in Laguna Hills, California. One of his great passions was golf and he enjoyed few things more than playing with his wife.
Beard is survived by his wife, his three children, Karen, Dana, and Jon, and his grandchildren.