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Matthew Beal

April 2014

Taking full advantage of Advantage

Matthew Beal has a lot of stories he likes to tell that explain why he became the man he is today. But there is one in particular that goes a long way toward explaining what kind of man that is.

Back in February, just after Kansas City had received the latest round of late-winter snowfall, Beal was driving with his girlfriend to pick up one of her son’s friends who needed a ride to work. They were heading down Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard when, out of the corner of an eye, she saw a man collapse onto the pavement of an adjacent parking lot. Beal immediately flipped a U-turn and rushed to the fallen man’s side.

The man’s face already was turning purple when Beal arrived. Beal, who years earlier worked as a paramedic, began CPR and administered it for 10 minutes before police and an ambulance arrived. Unfortunately, the man died days later at an area hospital. But, Beal had given him at least a fighting chance.

“I think it was cool that we were there at the right time,” Beal said. “I have had so many adventures like that, it’s hard to believe there’s not a big hand up somewhere helping me out.”

Today Beal, 45, is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in business administration through the Avila Advantage program. He maintains a full course load (15-18 hours) despite just starting a full-time job as a systems engineer at Kansas City Southern Railway and being a single father of four. And, oh yeah, he also volunteers every week for an organization that helps the homeless.

Beal attributes much of his restlessness and innate desire to help others to his being adopted into a Quaker family in South Portland, Maine. His parents were politically active – they counted votes during local and regional elections – and as a family they were active with charity organizations like OXFAM and UNICEF.

“The needs of others were pretty paramount in how religion was expressed in my family,” he said. “Being adopted, I was always interested in people on the fringe, how they’re accepted. I started volunteering in high school as a peer counselor on a crisis hotline.”

Although he said education was highly valued in his family, Beal wasn’t always drawn to the books. But, after following his girlfriend to Kansas City and being turned away from the Army because of a broken hand, he said he started thinking about college. He was bored and wanted to fill free time in the evenings.

After 1 ½ years at another Kansas City-area university, he said he knew he needed a change. He found that at Avila, thanks mostly, he said, to the recruiting efforts and counseling he received from Admissions Advisor Rachel Robinson.

“She made a real difference,” Beal said. “She made it sound like there was real value in coming here.”

That value resided in a more rigorous classroom environment in a strong, faith-based setting.

“In a class of 20 people, you know you have to really impress the teacher to get that ‘A’,” he said. “I went from filling some hours in the evening to, OK, let’s do this for real.

“The first class I had was religious history, and it blew me away. I practically filled a notepad every night.

Beal dove into his classwork and has thrived at Avila. He graduates in May, then said he’ll immediately start work on his master’s in the fall. AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434