Beacon College…30 Years Young
George J. Hagerty is the President of Beacon College
Imagine if you will the frustrations faced by students with learning and attention issues, along with their parents, when they are repeatedly told, overtly or subtlety, to lower their educational achievement expectations. Meanwhile, these individuals are hopeful that provided the right programs delivered by education specialists prepared in the field of special education, assisted by qualified ancillary support, and delivered in the right community, these heretofore underserved students could reach their maximum potential. Those with grit may embark on the search for an appropriate post-secondary education placement. However, all too often the search for thousands upon thousands of these learners fails and they are destined to lives of frustration, disappointment, and underachievement.
For them the higher education horizon remained dim until late in the 1980s when a small group of parents of students with learning and attention issues organized to found Beacon College. The college’s start-up was challenging, the outlook daunting and the outcomes uncertain. The financial resources were limited, but the determination of the founding members was strong. They came from varying backgrounds, but shared the common experience of parenting young men and women for whom there was no collegiate fit. They organized, pooled their resources, and in 1989, founded Beacon College. The college was awarded a license to operate by the state of Florida. Its early growth in Leesburg, Florida was at a glacial pace, but slowly the word began to spread and the enrollment incrementally grew. Several baccalaureate and associate degrees were available to the Beacon undergraduates.
Beacon College earned accreditation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) in 2008. The Board of Trustees grew to include an enlarged body of individuals, some of whom were well informed about the issues these learners faced while others were new to the challenges. All became committed to the mission of the college and contributed their knowledge, talents, and treasures.
By 2011, the Board of Trustees faced the reality that a change in leadership along with a reaffirmed mission and expanded vision were essential if Beacon College were to advance beyond its start-up phase. The Board was determined to change the national trajectory for this underserved population by first perfecting the Beacon College model. A highly intense one-day retreat was conducted by the Board, inclusive of members of the Senior Staff of the Administration. The result was a framework clarifying the role description and expectations for the next President. Following a national search, the Board in 2013 selected Dr. George J. Hagerty, President Emeritus of Franklin Pierce University, to serve as Beacon College’s third President. President Hagerty continues to serve as Beacon’s President and has provided the excellence in leadership that was desperately needed in order to advance its mission.
Today, Beacon College is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Now educating over 400 students and offering an expanded number of baccalaureate and associate degrees inclusive of a comprehensively structured career development program, along with a high quality student life program, Beacon College was recently ranked #1 in our nation by Peterson’s in their evaluation of colleges educating students with learning and attention issues. The Board and Administration are now in discussions planning for an enrollment goal of 600 learners. #
Eileen Marinakis is emeritus of the staff of Public Health Service Hospital on Staten Island and served as the chair of the Board of Trustees of Beacon College.