Directing athletics in paradise

Alexander Weck

The start of Lawrence classes always summons decorated attire from some community members not normally predisposed to formal wear. At least one professor is committed to never wearing a tie in class except on the first day of class. However, across the river, in his modest office, new director of athletics Robert L. Beeman Jr. remains unceremoniously dressed and openly jovial.
Hired in the late spring of this year, “Bob,” as Beeman prefers to be called, has been thrust into the task of being the first full-time athletic director in the 112-year history of intercollegiate athletics at Lawrence. His directive, as given by President Beck and overseen by Provost David Burrows, is to do a holistic review of the operations of the department. This is no walk in the park. “Call me old fashioned,” says Beeman, “but I’m looking over everything from soup to nuts.” He admits the phrasing is antiquated, but his message is clear.
Despite his casual demeanor, Beeman’s take on how to run an athletic department is strictly down-to-business. “Every day we aren’t making changes, we are losing ground,” he says. Some may ask what these changes are and why they are being made. Beeman’s thoughts are that if there is any way he can make the Lawrence community better off from his position, that is what he wants to do.
As the director of both intercollegiate athletics and operations of the recreation center, Beeman really does mean the entire Lawrence campus. He aims to survey campus in the coming months to really get a grasp of what students and faculty want for athletic opportunities. He is particularly geared towards wellness and what he calls a “Lawrence family.”
Beeman, originally from Connecticut, has come to LU from the Charles Wright Academy, a preparatory school in Tacoma, Wash. whereserved as athletic director. Previous to that, he coached football, baseball, basketball, and softball at various high schools and small colleges in the Midwest. He is replacing previous co-directors Kim Tatro and John Tharp, who have both remained on staff as full-time coaches. Beeman respects the work they did immensely. “Between coaching and directing, they were just being spread too thin,” he says. He finds the separation of the athletic director and coaching positions necessary, however, for maximizing the potential of a small school athletic department.
As he performs his daily tasks of reviewing department operations, Beeman may not have a grasp on what changes need to be made for some time. But with his avowed mindset of “making the best of things,” changes should be on the way. To him, being on top of this gargantuan project is “just another day in paradise.