The Beckham Era

Beckham in Model T

Dr. Benjamin Beckham traveling mountain roads in the school’s Model T Ford, circa 1918–20.

As founder and first principal, Dr. Benjamin Beckham (1868–1957) was the guiding force at Ferrum from 1913 to 1935. He managed FTS campus operations, oversaw the branch schools, and still taught a course each term. Dr. Beckham held a deep sympathy for the needs of students, but he is also remembered as a firm disciplinarian.

Raising money was an important part of Dr. Beckham’s duties. When Ferrum Training School desperately needed funds, he went so far as to take out loans in his or his wife’s names. He regularly visited donors and spoke to church and civic groups, always spreading the Ferrum story and soliciting support. For a period in the 1920s, Dr. Beckham traveled with a series of glass photographic slides and projector to showcase the mountain people’s lifestyle and Ferrum’s successes. The image of Dr. Beckham riding in a Model T Ford on a steep road has become an icon of Ferrum’s formative years.

Leaving Ferrum in 1935, Dr. Beckham went back into the ministry. However, he maintained his belief in the Ferrum mission and helped the school in a major fundraising campaign in the early 1940s. Dr. Beckham’s impact on students lasted for years, and looking at his portrait on campus six decades after the Beckham era, elderly alumni sometimes broke into tears.

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