We are saddened to share that Dr. James R. Beck (PhD, ’61, Rinehart), alumnus and longtime supporter of the University of Illinois, passed away on January 16, 2019.
Dr. Beck was born in Paris, Illinois on August 17, 1931. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1957 before coming to Illinois where he studied under Prof. Kenneth L. Rinehart, completing his PhD studies in 1961.
He was a research leader at Lilly from 1962 until his retirement in 1989. Areas of research included synthetic organic chemistry (especially heterocyclic chemistry, nonaqueous diazotization, and aromatic nitro displacement) related to herbicides, plant growth regulators, and chemical hybridizing agents. At one time he shared a lab at Lilly with fellow Illinois alumnus, Herschel Porter (PhD, ’47, Fuson).
Dr. Beck was interested in archaeology, volcanoes, nature, South American Indian cultures, and native Alaskan cultures (Inuit carvings). He collected historical documents and his collection included pieces signed by Washington, Jefferson, Hancock, Franklin, Patrick Henry (to whom he was related) and Lincoln (to whom he was also related).
Dr. Beck has supported the University of Illinois since the mid-1980s, establishing multiple named funds to provide undergraduate scholarship, graduate fellowship, and unrestricted support for the departments of chemistry and microbiology. Countless students have benefited from his generosity over the years. One of the 2018-19 recipients of the James R. Beck Fellowship in Chemistry expressed her gratitude: “I really appreciate your thoughtful contribution to helping fund my pursuit of an organic chemistry PhD. Your support significantly reduces financial stress and allows me to focus fully on my research.”
The department remembers Dr. Beck’s inspirational legacy of service and generosity with fondness and deep gratitude.
Read more about Dr. Beck on the University of Illinois Foundation website.