As a very young boy, Tim Beard would walk a mile each way to buy a newspaper at the store so he could devour stories about his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.
He admired such players as Lou Brock, Joe Torre and Bob Gibson — and delighted in reading about their pursuits.
He recalled that he was only 5 or 6 years old when he was making those treks to the store.
Literacy and athletics were twin loves in his life, until Beard decided he would spend less energy on athletics and give his full attention to education.
He grew up in poverty in the Panhandle town of St. Joe — and now he leads Pasco-Hernando State College.
Before becoming president of the college on July 1, he served as a vice president at the college for eight years.
He claimed the role vacated by Katherine Johnson, who retired after a decade at the helm.
Beard is clearly excited about the possibilities.
As an internal candidate for the post, Beard said he had the advantage of understanding the college and knowing its pulse.
“I know the institution. I know the flow. I know the community,” Beard said.
As PHSC’s new leader, he’s already starting to carry out his game plan.
He’s identified key focus areas. Those include increasing student retention and degree completion rates, expanding partnerships, and securing more funding to support programs.
To help retain students, Beard is launching an initiative called Retention Behavioral Inventory, or RBI, for short.
He plans to have weekly conference calls with PHSC administrators to keep the goal of improving student retention and degree completion rates at the forefront for the college’s leadership team.
Together, they’ll review the data to see how the college is doing. And, they’ll discuss the numbers, talk about why students withdraw and examine if there is anything they could have done to prevent the withdrawals.
“The big piece is going to be a referral piece,” the college president said. “If we find out that a student withdrew because of finances, can we find a financial source within scholarships or other sources that would have helped this student stay in school?”
Over the years, he said he has observed that most of the time when a student withdraws, there is some type of problem in a personal relationship or a difficulty in paying tuition. Sometimes, students are struggling academically.
“We want to have a referral source, or sources, to make sure these students are receiving the kind of support they need to stay in school,” Beard said.
The college has a fund established by a donor that is specifically intended to help students, who for whatever reason, are not performing well, Beard said.
He wants to find more sources of additional funding for the college.
That could be in the form of private contributions, or through other opportunities available at the state, regional, national or international level, he said.
For instance, he said he recently served as a panelist at a conference for the National Association for Equal Opportunities.
While there, he met some federal officials and learned about some money that might be available for colleges with rural campuses. He plans to pursue that possibility.
He’s also talked with John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council.
Beard said Hagen told him that “the federal government is coming into an agreement with some major companies across the world that want to relocate in the United States. They are talking about community two- and four-year colleges really being around the table to develop curricula and design programs to help meet their work force needs.”
That fits in nicely with the kind of work the college is accustomed to doing, Beard said.
During the Great Recession, there was national recognition that college’s like PHSC can play a vital role in helping people learn new skills that equip them for today’s job market, Beard said.
“Our certification programs, our social science degree programs, are designed just for that. To take workers, retrain them, and get them back in the work force within a year,” Beard said.
Besides helping to train people who are in the work force or returning to the work force, the college also wants to help prepare young people for future careers, Beard said.
PHSC wants to partner with the Pasco and Hernando county school systems to begin working with students at a younger age.
“We want to start establishing career pathways with students as early as middle school,” Beard said. And that means making connections with the families of those middle school students, he added.
The idea is to start early, so students graduating from those counties can achieve a degree or certification by the time they’re 21, he added.
Partnerships are essential — to supplement and maximize the college’s resources, Beard said.
“We used to be state-supported, now we’re more state-supplemented. We’ve got to have greater partnerships — with private corporations, with manufacturers,” Beard said.
He also wants to get faith-based groups involved, to provide additional support for students.
Since assuming his post, Beard has been meeting with bankers, manufacturers, faith-based groups and civic organizations.
And it won’t stop there.
“We’re not limiting our connections to just local people, but also regional, state and national,” he said.
He is hopeful that making these connections will bear fruit, and he’s optimistic, too.
“We have some major prospects. So, you stay tuned,” Beard said.
Tim Beard bio
- Holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a PhD from Florida State University
- Has been married to his wife, Wendy, for 29 years; they have two daughters, Briana, 20 and Sierra, 17
- Joined what was then Pasco-Hernando Community College in 2007
- Became Pasco-Hernando State College’s new president on July 1
Fun facts about Tim Beard
Some fun facts about the new president of Pasco-Hernando State College, Tim Beard:
- Enjoys peach cobbler and banana pudding
- Calls intense cardio workouts his “getaway,” and says washing his car and mowing the lawn are “therapeutic”
- Says a “church mother” gave him the best piece of advice he’s received. She told him: “Regardless of what you do in life, don’t be a hypocrite. Be real.”
(Courtesy of Lucy Miller, executive director of marketing and communications for Pasco-Hernando State College)
Published August 5, 2015