ASU mourns loss of Leo Beus, attorney and philanthropist

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.

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