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ASU mourns loss of Leo Beus, attorney and philanthropist

November 16, 2022

Through a wide range of gifts, Beus always sought to improve lives

Leo Beus’ generosity reached almost every corner of Arizona State University.

With his wife, Annette, Beus for many years directed philanthropic support to a wide range of causes and programs at ASU with one unifying motive: to improve the lives of others.

Beus died Nov. 14 at the age of 78, leaving a legacy at ASU characterized by its breadth and wide-ranging impact.

Neither Leo nor Annette Beus was an ASU alum. Leo was a loyal alumnus of Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan Law School. Annette graduated from the University of Utah. But over the years, they created deep relationships with ASU students, leadership and faculty thought leaders. Having worked his way through college with the help of scholarships, Beus was a firm believer in ASU’s commitment to accessibility in higher education. He also recognized the meaningful ways that ASU impacts communities and directed his generosity to projects he believed contributed to the well-being of his fellow citizens.

“Leo was such a powerful force for good in our community. He was a man of character, integrity, ability and faith,” said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of the ASU Foundation for A New American University. “What was striking about Leo is he always looked for ways to make life better for the people around him. He supported so many causes and programs at ASU because he firmly believed he could transform lives and communities. Our hearts go out to Annette and to their family.”

In 2014, the Beuses helped change the face of downtown Phoenix when they gave a gift to establish the Beus Center for Law and Society in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. At the time, ASU was moving its legal education to the downtown campus and conceptualizing how a public law school could allow access to and cooperate with legal professionals nearby. A founding partner of the respected law firm Beus Gilbert McGroder, Beus believed in ASU’s vision of a law school embedded in and of service to the community.

Later, on a flight to San Diego, Beus by coincidence sat next to Petra Fromme, now director of ASU’s Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery. They struck up a conversation. Fromme explained how she and ASU colleagues were doing groundbreaking work analyzing proteins using high-intensity X-ray free electron lasers (XFEL). ASU is at the forefront of adapting the world’s most powerful X-rays to capture molecules in motion — enabling them to peer into the atomic world and see biological reactions in unprecedented detail.

Fromme explained to Beus that to do this work, they needed access to giant X-ray facilities. There are only a few worldwide, which require long wait times and complicated logistics to access. So, ASU scientists are creating a compact X-ray free electron laser, essentially shrinking the size and cost needed to fit into a laboratory. The compact XFEL has the potential to revolutionize access and make cutting-edge research accessible to more institutions. Potential applications include the creation of targeted medicines, “green” renewable energy and more.

Leo and Annette Beus, impressed by Fromme and intrigued by her vision, donated $10 million to establish the Beus Compact X-ray Free Electron Laser Lab in ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

“I will always be grateful for Leo’s faith in ASU and its people,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “From the moment Leo learned about what we were doing here at ASU — building a truly transformative public university — he and Annette joined us on this journey. Leo was all-in, supporting our aspirations and celebrating our successes. He will be greatly missed.”

Beus received a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1967 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1970. After he finished law school, Leo and Annette moved to Arizona, where he worked for a major Phoenix law firm. In 1982, Beus and his lifelong friend, Paul E. Gilbert, founded their own firm. Today, Beus Gilbert McGroder specializes in high commercial litigation, real estate zoning law, and catastrophic injury and wrongful death.

A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Beus was called to serve as bishop of the ASU student ward. While serving in that capacity, he and Annette were deeply impressed by the ASU students they met. They also saw how ASU offered opportunities for students of faith to pursue spiritual growth as well as academic excellence.

Patricia White, who served with Beus on the University of Michigan board of visitors and later became dean of ASU’s law school, introduced Beus to Crow. He invited Beus to give guest lectures at the law school, and Beus invited Crow to speak at several LDS functions.

After seeing how well ASU supported its students, the Beuses decided to support ASU in its quest to make higher education more accessible. Their first gift was the Beus Family New American University Scholarship, which is awarded annually to 12 students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, math or music. Since then, their generosity has enriched a range of research, student scholarships and service groups. The have also made a significant commitment to the Sun Devil Stadium renovation and ASU men’s golf.

In 2022, the Beuses made an endowed gift to ASU to establish the Beus Center for Cosmic Foundations in the School of Earth and Space Exploration with an aim to better understand the history of early stars, galaxies and black holes to better understand the universe.

The Beuses were named Philanthropists of the Year during ASU’s Founders’ Day event in 2020. In addition to their philanthropy, the Beuses also held leadership roles at ASU. Leo and Annette served as co-chairs of the President’s Club. At the time of his passing, Leo was serving on the ASU Board of Trustees and Sun Devil Club board.

Top photo: Annette and Leo Beus.

Copywriter/content strategist , ASU Enterprise Partners

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ASU welcomes more than 4K Earned Admission students

November 16, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2022 year in review.

For Shannon Lauritsen, a 33-year-old hair stylist in Nashville, Tennessee, going to college was a lifelong dream. But for her, like others, the traditional high-school-to-college path was challenging. 

“I struggled to focus and succeed in high school,” Lauritsen says. “I even had a guidance counselor laugh at my desire to apply to college. After high school, I attempted a few semesters in community college, which proved even more challenging for me at the time. It significantly impacted my GPA.”

woman's portrait in kitchen

Shannon Lauritsen

Determined to move forward, Lauritsen went on to learn a trade and opened her own business. But she never gave up on her goal of going to college. In 2020, she applied to Arizona State University but didn’t get admitted due to her academic transcript. However, the university provided her with another path forward. She was directed to ASU’s innovative college pathway Earned Admissions

“Earned Admissions was such a gift,” she says. “It allowed me to prove to myself that I was ready for this challenge, without the pressure that comes with loans and a full-time course load. Now I’m part of the Barrett Honors College, and I am so proud of what ASU has helped me achieve.” 

Lauritsen blazed a new path into an ASU degree program — and she’s now joined by more than 4,000 other Sun Devils on the Earned Admissions pathway.

Creating new pathways into college

For many learners, the traditional pathway to college is broken. 84% of U.S. high school students want to go on to higher education, but only 66% of them go to college. Of those who enroll in college, 40% never finish — leaving many learners with student loans and no degree. A 2022 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report found that more than 39 million Americans have some college experience but no credentials, leaving them at risk of being left out of the 21st century economy. 

“Traditional higher education in the U.S. creates force fields that keep people out," said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU Learning Enterprise. "Too many learners fall off the traditional path, with no way to get back onto a college pathway.

"At ASU, we are challenging the status quo and lowering the force fields that keep people from pursuing their learning goals. The 4,000 people that have been admitted into ASU through our Earned Admissions pathway proves that people need more flexibility and options in gaining admission into a research university"

The Earned Admissions pathway is powered by ASU’s Universal Learner Courses (ULCs). These courses are first-year ASU college courses offered online and open to everyone. ULCs enable learners to test the college waters by earning college credit for a fraction of the cost: $25 to register and $400 only if they are satisfied with their grade. Once learners complete their required ULC courses with a 2.75 GPA or higher, Earned Admission gives them the opportunity to gain admission into ASU or transfer their credits to any institution that accepts ASU credits. 

After serving more than 15 years as a high school leader, Kimberly Merritt, vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, knows the shortcomings of the traditional college path firsthand.

“I saw the system fail learners time and time again,” Merritt says. “ASU is creating new pathways to higher education that meet learners where they are in life. With 4,000 success stories and counting, our Earned Admissions program is proving to be a new model with the potential to create enormous opportunities for economic and social mobility.” 

Earning admission, finding success

The Earned Admissions college pathway has provided more than 4,000 students — and growing — with access to the nation’s most innovative degree programs. The early data demonstrates that they are thriving at ASU.

“Our academic community believes that our world-class undergraduate degrees should be available to learners who demonstrate the ability to succeed in university-level coursework,” says Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost at ASU. “Each person’s educational journey is unique. It depends on personal circumstances and goals that often make it challenging to fit within one prescribed path to a degree.

"Universal Learner Courses are one example of an ASU approach that honors that reality and empowers more learners to make progress toward their goals. We proudly welcome the new students who earned their spot at ASU by succeeding in these ASU courses.”

“Earned Admissions has been a game changer for me,” Lauritsen says. "It’s given me so much confidence and opened up new possibilities for the future. Regardless of the path you take at the end of a Universal Learner Course, you will learn something new and grow in interesting ways.

"My Earned Admission journey was a wonderful experience — I hope more students join me.”

Written by James Knutila, ASU Learning Enterprise.

Top photo from Pexels.