posted September 8, 2008

Retired Psychology Professor Leslie Beach Dies

Dr. Leslie Beach of Holland, who retired from the Hope College faculty in 1991 after more than a quarter century on the psychology faculty, died on Sunday, September 7.  He was 82.

He had joined the college's psychology faculty in 1964.  He served two three-year terms as chairperson of the department, from 1968 to 1971 and from 1974 to 1977.  Under his leadership, the department designed and developed its greatly expanded facilities in the Peale Science Center, which is now a part of the college's Schaap Science Center.

During his early professional years, he wrote "Psychology in Business," published by McGraw-Hill; he had also written several articles published in professional journals and other publications and a human relations training manual.  He also received three external research grants supporting his nationally recognized research on student development during college and on enhancing student learning through small-group discussion.

For 11 years, he directed the college's successful STEP Program, designed for students able to pursue college-level work if given a certain amount of academic assistance.  He also became a licensed psychologist with the State of Michigan, which furthered his opportunities to consult for business, industry, public schools and mental health agencies.  While at Hope he also served as an adjunct lecturer in the Grand Rapids Extension of the University of Michigan from 1969 to 1980.

His special consulting and teaching expertise was in human relations training and in techniques of effective group leadership.  He shared his knowledge, gained through workshops with the National Training Laboratories and other institutes, in his courses in Group Dynamics and Human Relations, as well as in management seminars and staff consultations.  He also pursued and shared special interests in humanistic psychology, the psychology of men and women, and community building.

He was featured in "USAToday" in January 1991 as part of the publication's coverage related to the Gulf War, for his perceptions of the different ways men and women regard war.  As a result of that article he was also interviewed on radio stations in several cities, including Minneapolis, Minn.; Seattle, Wash.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Washington, D.C.; and Detroit, Mich.

In retirement he had been active as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in disaster mental health.  He served at several sites, including working with survivors in the aftermath of tropical storms and hurricanes in Georgia and Puerto Rico and tornados in Oklahoma City; and firefighters and recovery workers in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City.

He was born on Aug. 29, 1926, near Hart, and raised and educated in Houghton, N.Y.  Following service as a communications intelligence expert in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, he graduated from Houghton College in 1949.  From 1949 to 1955, interrupted by another year of naval intelligence service during the Korean War, he served the General Motors Institute as an instructor in psychology and human relations while simultaneously completing a master's degree in educational psychology at Wayne State University.

After completing his doctorate in psychology and educational psychology at the University of Michigan, he became an associate professor at WhitworthCollege in Spokane, Wash., where he served from 1957 to 1963.  Following a one-year appointment as an associate professor at Bowling Green State University, he joined the Hope faculty.

Survivors include his wife, Carla; and three children, Lisa, Michael and Randy.

Visitation will be at the Mulder Chapel of the Dykstra Funeral Homes, 188 West 32nd St., Holland on Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m.

A memorial service will be held at Hope Church, 77 W. 11th St. in Holland, on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 1 p.m.