William "Bill" Beachler, creator of the Pride Scholarship at MSU, passed away on January 11.

A student sits next to Bill Beachler at the 2014 scholarship luncheon

The world lost a wonderful man, and a wonderful Spartan, last week. William “Bill” M. Beachler passed away on January 11, at age 70.

Beachler moved from Rowley, Iowa, to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. He graduated from the hotel and restaurant management program in 1968, before being stationed in West Germany as part of the United States Army. Following his Army service, he returned to MSU to earn his master’s degree in management in 1971. He would go on to a long career with the Michigan Department of Transportation. He was an avid Spartan fan throughout his life, holding season tickets for MSU football and basketball for about 45 years.

Always politically active, Beachler spent decades advocating for equal rights for the LGBT community. He helped form the Lansing Association for Human Rights, and served the organization in various capacities for 37 years. He also served as secretary on the board of the MSU GLBT Alumni Association, and supported various state and national LGBT organizations.

Beachler was always there to support LGBT students at MSU, and these friendships often lasted after they’d graduated. John Huebler met Beachler when Huebler was a junior at MSU, having just come out. 

“Bill became a friend to me instantly. He had a tremendous impact on my life as a friend and mentor,” says Huebler. “He taught me a lot about public service and how being involved in your community shapes you as a person.”

In 2000, Beachler was instrumental in establishing the Pride Endowed Scholarship Fund at Michigan State University. The fund provides scholarships to undergraduate students who are committed to academic achievement and have a demonstrated involvement with or contributions to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgendered community. The fund is administered by the Office of Financial Aid in consultation with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Faculty and Staff Association (GLFSA).

Beachler gave the first gift to the Pride Endowment, and continued to support the fund in the sixteen years that followed. Jon Hoadley, now a Michigan State Representative in Kalamazoo, was one of the early recipients of the Pride Scholarship. Originally from South Dakota, he was looking for a college campus climate that was open and accepting to students like himself. He was thrilled to see that MSU offered an LGBT-specific scholarship and immediately applied. Hoadley first met Beachler at an LGBT open house on campus, where he was officially presented with the scholarship. He fondly remembers his conversation with Beachler, when he learned about not only the history of the scholarship, but also about the Lansing and MSU communities. 

“I really appreciate that he took on that mentorship role. With [the scholarship] came a history and a story about why it was important,” says Hoadley. After graduation and starting his career, Hoadley would contribute to the scholarship in an effort to pay it forward. Hoadley credits the Pride Scholarship with giving him a nudge to get outside his comfort zone, join student organizations and get involved with advocacy work. Without this early set of circumstances, his advocacy work might not be at the high level that it is today.

“One of Bill’s goals with creating the fund was so that LGBT students would not feel shamed for who they were,” says Huebler. “Bill’s experience from his generation was the opposite.” Undergraduate experiences in those days could be very difficult. Beachler thought it would be wonderful if, instead of being shamed, LGBT students could know that institutions like Michigan State University welcomed them explicitly.

“That was his goal, and I think that has been very well accomplished. The scholarship not only helps the student, but it helps the university to attract some bright individuals who might not otherwise have attended MSU. It short, I think MSU is a better university because of the Pride Scholarship,” says Huebler.

Since its inception, the fund has awarded close to $40,000 to 15 students at Michigan State University. Individuals who wish to make a gift to MSU in memory of William Beachler can do so at: givingto.msu.edu/2106.

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