Purdue mourns former first lady Jane Beering

March 13, 2015  

Steve and Jane Beering

Steven and Jane Beering

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Jane Pickering Beering, first lady of Purdue University for 17 years, died March 9, 2015, in Carmel, Indiana. She was 81.

Mrs. Beering, wife of Purdue President Emeritus Steven C. Beering, was known as his active partner in friend-raising for Purdue during his term as president from 1983-2000.

"No one was ever more devoted to this institution than Jane Beering,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "For 17 hardworking years, she opened her heart wide to every Boilermaker: students, faculty, staff and alumni. Purdue will never have a more gracious or vigorous ambassador."

In recognition of her role as "first hostess," Mrs. Beering was awarded an honorary doctorate of hospitality management in 2000 and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by two governors. She, in turn, said of her time at Purdue, "It's been the greatest adventure of our lives."

Jane Beering oversaw the renovation and expansion of Westwood, the president's on-campus residence, to increase its ability to hold university events and ensure accessibility, which was an issue she also played a role in addressing through her involvement with a renovation of the governor's residence in Indianapolis. A genuine hostess, while her husband was president she opened Westwood for more than 100 events a year hosting more than 100,000 students, alumni, faculty and staff.

Jane Beering at Westwood

Jane Beering, at right, meeting with visitors at Westwood.

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She also was rarely without a camera, shooting more than 15,000 photographs a year of the Purdue family. The photos often found their way into personal notes and the Beerings' Christmas cards with special messages.

Together, the Beerings raised funds for the Beering Scholarships, which cover all educational expenses for a bachelor's degree and the opportunity to pursue two other graduate degrees at Purdue. Approximately 140 students have benefited since the scholarships were first established in 1986.

In recognition of her impact on the university, the Academic Learning Center in the Intercollegiate Athletic Facility was named in her honor. As a tribute, Purdue retirees renovated the David Ross Memorial and Garden at the top of Slayter Hill - one of her favorite spots on campus - which is where she will be buried. She will join Purdue benefactor David Ross and university founder John Purdue as the only three people buried on campus.

Beerings Pinnacle Award

The Beerings receive the Pinnacle Award from President Mitch Daniels.

Mrs. Beering was born in Pittsburgh and met her husband-to-be, the lab partner of her sister's boyfriend, the first day of classes while both were students at the University of Pittsburgh. Their relationship spanned almost 65 years. She was active in student government and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in international political science and a membership in the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society.

After graduation, she held positions with the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., and the International Division of Mine Safety Appliances Co. in Pittsburgh prior to raising a family of three sons.

She is survived by her husband, Steve, and her sons Peter (wife Shokrina) of Carmel, Indiana, David (wife Donna) of Wheaton, Illinois, John (wife Heather) of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and five grandchildren (Amanda, Heidi, Steven, Andrew and Catherine).

Beerings honorary doctorate

The Beerings receive an honorary doctorate from Purdue in 2000.

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Memorial contributions for the Beering Scholars program should be mailed to Purdue University Honors College (ATTN. Nathaniel Coghlan), 205 N. Russell St., West Lafayette, IN 47906-4238. Checks should be made payable to the Purdue Research Foundation, and the memo line should read "Contribution to Beering Scholars program in honor of Jane Beering."

A celebration of life will be held from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 26, 2015, at Second Presbyterian Church 7700 North Meridian St., Indianapolis.

A second celebration of life event will be held in May at Purdue University. The date and time of the Purdue event will be announced at a later date.


More about Jane Beering:

She was past president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges Council of Spouses and wrote and published "Coping: The Handbook of Protocol and University Entertaining" for the association's members.

She was an expert needle worker and designer, certified as a Master Craftsman, specializing in crewel, canvas, and counted-thread embroidery. She was a founder of the Indianapolis chapter of the Embroiders' Guild of America, and past chair of the Guild's National Master Craftsman Program in Crewel.

She was a concert pianist who had the great piano works committed to memory. She also devoted her time to a range of service and arts organizations in Greater Lafayette and Indianapolis.

At 17 years, she was among Purdue's longest-serving first ladies, with only Priscilla Hovde (26 years) and Elizabeth Elliott (23 years) serving longer. 

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