SHEPHERDSTOWN – The Butcher Center at Shepherd University that was set up the day before, Alan Gibson looked at the balloons with a bittersweet smile on Sunday night.
Gibson remembered the excitement of the late Shepherd Provost Dr. Scott Beard – and Gibson’s 30-year-old life partner – was said to have ordered these decorations for graduation.
“Scott, you are fantastic,” said Gibson.
Friends and family, co-workers and former students filled the butcher center Sunday afternoon to remember Beard again. He died unexpectedly in March at the age of 56.
In true keeping with Beard’s style and passion for life, the arts, and nursing, the festival of life was just that, a festival of all the good memories that those who gathered shared with Beard, Gibson shared these the most. Gibson said no one loved a celebration more than Beard, so those who loved him the most worked once again to honor the man they loved in every possible way, from costume changes and songs to piano performances and a flash mob.
“I know he would be just as touched as I am,” said Gibson, looking at the sea of those who were touched by Bart’s presence and heart.
Gibson shared funny stories of Beard’s love of clothing, including a trip to India that ended with Beard taking home a perfectly tailored, handcrafted suit. To honor his love, Gibson wore some of Beard’s favorites, including a black sequin jacket that he wore called “the Liza Minnelli jacket.”
“Scott was born to wear cock,” Gibson said sometime between musical performances, wearing one of Beard’s performance jackets.
While the funny stories recalled the sparkling personality and loving person that Bart was, it was the performances of his students and the speeches of those closest to Bart that brought to light the hole in everyone’s heart.
Shepherd Faculty Senate President Dr. Heidi Hanrahan, remembered the day after Beard’s death, and began each class by acknowledging the profound loss in the Shepherd community.
“Believe me, he worked so hard for each of you,” she said to her students.
Commenting on the energy, cheers and skills of Beard in his work, Hanrahan emphasized that the success of his students and their journeys through life are Beard’s legacy that he lives on through the lives of everyone he touches.
“It was so strange not to see him here (at the beginning),” Hanrahan said, looking at the balloons Beard had commanded for joy, “but he was here. Scott loved Shepherd and made it a better place.”
“I miss him so much, but I know his work will continue. He inspires us to keep going and we will. Scott, thank you and Alan, thank you.”
When Hanrahan’s story of Beard, who broke up a well-deserved vacation in Paris with a Zoom meeting to bring up something at Shepherd, gave way to Gibson’s memories of traveling together, a period continued to ring in every sentence, word, and pause as the Hearts ached loss: Bart’s zest for life, which was evident in so many areas of life.
Gibson told the story of Beard repairing a piano while on vacation in Costa Rica, placing pencils between un-tuned strings. These pencils later showed up with the audience during an impromptu performance at their hotel. He shared Beard’s love of figure skating, which sparked a phone call from Brian Boitano and a friendship with Dorothy Hamill, who sent out a video message to commemorate the celebration.
Shepherd faculty representatives and staff who knew Beard well, many calling him more than a colleague but a friend, thanked him for the legacy he had left, especially those who benefited the music and nursing programs. An endowed scholarship, the Scott Beard and Alan Gibson Music and Nursing Student Endowment Scholarships, have been created in his honor to support those who care about Beard.
As former students shared memories of visiting his home for class, turning to him for advice, honoring Beard through their performances and the voices he led them to, the celebration began to wane, tears formed in the eyes and a gloomy feeling in the.
As the final performance, a flash mob with many of Beard’s former music students, Gibson ended the event with a voice break and tears when a final photo of Beard appeared on the nearby screens offering a thank you and a Miss You before leaving Was greeted by hugs and condolences from those nearby.
“I’ve learned so much in my life with Scott,” said Gibson, “and I’m still learning.”