Biographies > Wesleyan
by Johanna Russ, Class of 2003
Joseph Beech was born October 3, 1867, in Newbold, England. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1899, but may have had an association with the University at an earlier time. He was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa. Beech received a Bachelor's of Philosophy degree from Wesleyan, and in 1911 he received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity.
In 1888, he married Mary Josephine Harvey. Together they had one son, Elliot. Mary died in 1890. In 1899, Beech traveled to China. In 1904, he married Nellie Miriam Decker of West China. The couple had six children, three boys and three girls.
From 1901 to 1904, Beech was the principal of a high school in Chung King, West China. From 1905 to 1914, he was the president of Chengtu College. In 1914, he became one of the founders of the West China Union University, and he served as chancellor of this institution until 1941. The University was established under the cooperation of the American Baptist Mission Union, the Canada Methodist Mission, the Friends Foreign Missionary Association, and the Board of Foreign Missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Beech retained close ties to Wesleyan throughout his career. This is evident in that other Wesleyan alumni traveled to China and became important figures at West China Union University. Among these are George B. Neumann, James M. Yard, and Joseph M. Goldblatt. Two of Beech's sons later attended and graduated from Wesleyan as well. The West China Union University grew and thrived over the years as a missionary institute of higher learning in China.
Beech eventually retired to the U.S. He died on February 25, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois
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