John A. Beegle, who died May 6, arrived in Cullowhee in 1972 as an accounting professor. Friends agree that doesn’t say nearly enough about him.
Leroy Kauffman, head of the accounting, finance, information systems and economics department at WCU, worked alongside Beegle for more than 10 years and called him “the consummate professional accountant.” But what most impressed Kauffman was Beegle’s commitment to the Cullowhee Fire Department. “If the fire radio went off during class, he would wrap up class immediately and he was gone,” Kaufmann recalled.
Volunteer firefighter, small plane pilot, motorcycle enthusiast, church member, Mason, Shriner, teacher, husband, father and grandfather – Beegle’s energy and causes were limitless. “It was really interesting at his funeral for a lot of people to see sides of Dad that they didn’t know,” said Jan Beegle Shearin ’94 MPM ’03, an employee in WCU’s accounts payable office. She has memories of childhood trips by airplane, and of her mother learning to pilot “so she could land the plane if anything happened.”
Proud of his Scottish heritage (he was a member of the Clan MacNaughton), Beegle was beloved coordinator of the overnight camping at MacRae Meadows for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games for more than 25 years. Nicknamed “Mayor of the Meadow,” Beegle was “a master at getting everyone in,” said Frank Vance, general manager of the games and Beegle’s friend. “He remembered year to year where every RV went.”
Ever the accountant, Beegle turned the camping from a $5,000-per-year venture into one of the biggest moneymakers for the games, annually bringing in more than $100,000 – money that helps fund educational scholarships, among other things. “So that tells you the job he did,” said Vance, who is planning recognition of Beegle at this year’s games.
Born in 1934 in Florida, Beegle earned degrees from the University of Miami and his doctorate from Saint Louis University. He began his career at Georgia Southern University, and while at WCU he served as department head and as interim dean of the College of Business. A CPA and internal auditor, Beegle was especially interested in small business accounting systems and federal and state income taxation. He helped nonprofits with their taxes and proctored more than 50 of the twice-yearly sittings for the North Carolina CPA examinations.
In honor of Beegle’s 2006 retirement, colleagues, friends and alumni established an endowed scholarship given annually to a graduating senior who is entering the university’s master of accountancy program. His family – wife Marion, two sons, two daughters, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren – requested that memorial contributions go toward the John Beegle Scholarship or the Cullowhee Fire Department.
Beegle’s funeral was held at Cullowhee Presbyterian Church, where he was a past elder. At the funeral’s conclusion, the pianist played “The Entertainer.” “I thought, ‘How appropriate for John,’” Vance said. “He was an entertainer, bigger than life.”