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Beus gift to law center reflects affinity for ASU, concern for fellow citizens

Annette and Leo Beus
September 22, 2014

When Leo and Annette Beus arrived in Arizona in 1970, he was fresh out of law school and the young couple was, he says, “starting out broke.”

When it came time to donate to their most cherished causes, Arizona State University didn’t make the list. As a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan Law School, Leo says he was fiercely devoted to his alma maters, and Annette to hers: the University of Utah.

They still are, Leo Beus says, but their relationship with ASU is another story.

During 43 years successfully practicing law in the Valley, Leo Beus says he and Annette have forged strong ties to ASU that have given them an insiders’ view of the university. They have seen ASU dramatically improve its academics and research, and become an invaluable asset to the community – one that they are proud to support.

The Beuses believe so strongly in ASU’s potential that they recently gave $10 million to the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law’s Center for Law and Society, scheduled to open in 2016 at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“Leo and Annette Beus have long supported ASU because they recognize the meaningful ways this university can positively impact our communities and society in general,” said ASU President Michael Crow in announcing the gift. “Their most recent investment is a reflection of their deep commitment to helping us build a center that will become a major part of our city and state’s future; theirs is a contribution to the well-being of our fellow citizens.”

The gift is the most recent evidence of the Beuses’ generosity to ASU, and brings their total commitment to $15 million. Past gifts have enriched a range of programs, including student scholarships and service groups; a teaching award and an endowed chair; the college of law; and Sun Devil Athletics.

They felt drawn to contribute to the law school because Leo Beus says it reflects ASU’s commitment to access – affording students of every economic background the opportunity to earn a degree without accruing great amounts of debt.

Leo Beus says he empathizes with students who struggle to pay for higher education. “I grew up in humble circumstances,” he says. “I grew up without the ability to attend a quality school without a scholarship.” ASU’s commitment to include people who otherwise could never attain higher education meets a great need in society.

“I’m seeing ASU just close that gap,” he says. “It’s a blessing to the community, it’s a blessing to the downtown and it’s a blessing to the students.”

He and Annette are also deeply impressed by Crow’s vision to embed ASU within the community and produce scholarship that improves peoples’ lives. The Center for Law and Society is a great example of that commitment, he says.

The center is designed to be a model for public legal education. Situated in the heart of downtown near state and federal courts and many law offices, it will allow students unprecedented access to and cooperation with legal professionals. It will offer forums for continuing education, lectures and conferences. One of its greatest innovations will be the world’s first nonprofit, teaching law firm that will serve Arizonans. The Beuses’ gift, the largest philanthropic investment to date on behalf of the law school, will be used for building and capital support.

“The concept from the start has been that the Center for Law and Society will be a community centerpiece that will strengthen our connections to those we serve,” says Douglas Sylvester, dean of the College of Law. “With such generous support from Leo and Annette, this center will help transform the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, its students and faculty, our community and this great state for many generations to come. The Beuses have set a standard of support for what we are today and what we will become in the future.”

The Beuses’ generosity also demonstrates the positive impact of private investment in ASU, says R. F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., CEO of the ASU Foundation. “This most recent commitment to the Center for Law and Society is further evidence of Leo and Annette's belief in the vision of a New American University that exists to better our communities,” he says. “Their continued support is making a meaningful difference in the lives of this university’s students and faculty, and in the advancement of its programs.”

Building relationships

The story of how the couple created strong ties to ASU can be told one relationship at a time, Leo Beus says. Many were forged when he served as bishop with Annette of a Young Single Adult Ward at the LDS Institute at ASU.

Each week, they heard from students how ASU was changing their lives. Sometimes it was a scholarship that provided access to higher education; other times it was a program that nurtured a student’s talents and ambitions. “What ASU was doing for their lives was enormously important,” he recalls.

The Beuses also saw that ASU leaders were serious about making the university a place where students of faith could pursue spiritual and academic excellence.

Leo Beus also notes his friendship with former law school dean Patricia White, with whom he worked to create an endowed chair named for Charles Jones, Jr., a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Leo Beus credits White with laying the groundwork for the spirit of openness and cooperation between the law school and the wider community that will be realized in the new downtown center.

He and Annette are eager to contribute to its momentum. “This donation was a big step for us,” says Leo Beus, a principal in the firm Beus Gilbert. “But we have been very fortunate in big-case litigation, and Annette and I are happy to do it.”

He says private support from the community is a vital component to ASU’s rise to excellence. “If we could get ASU to the next level, the blessing it would be on the lives of the people of Arizona would be monumental.”

Melissa Bordow,
Senior Communications Specialist, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University