The Pro Bene Meritis award is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. Since 1984, the annual award has been given to alumni, faculty members and friends of the college who are committed to the liberal arts, have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits or have participated in service related to the college.
Name: Peggy Hardaway Beckham, B.S. and Plan II Honors Program ’56, The University of Texas at Austin; M.S. Literature ’75, Hardin-Simmons University; Honorary Doctorate of Humanities ’90, Hardin-Simmons University.
Hometown: Abilene, Texas
Peggy Beckham has dedicated much of her life to advocating for the arts and humanities. She is a strong supporter and champion of the Plan II and Liberal Arts Honors Programs as an alumna of the Plan II Honors Program and lifelong member of the Liberal Arts Advisory Council. Beckham, her husband Bob and their four children all live in Abilene, where Beckham established the Hospice of Abilene and actively serves on various community boards.
Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life, and why?
I have been blessed to have many positive influences in my life, including my lifelong membership in the Episcopal Church where Bob and I were married 59 years ago. Surprisingly, one of the strongest influences has been my father, John F. Hardaway, who died of cancer when I was only 4. He died at home before the Hospice movement was available, but I think that experience led to my interest in helping Hospice get started in Abilene in 1982.
What role have the liberal arts played in your life?
Socrates said many years ago that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I feel there is much truth in that statement. A liberal arts background gives us good tools to examine life — to see what makes us human and binds us together. If we are ever to be able to live together in peace and harmony, a liberal education’s viewpoint is invaluable.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I would say without hesitation, our family. Bob and I are so blessed to have four wonderful children, three of whom graduated from UT where they all met their spouses, whom we also love dearly. The nicest thing of all is that they all live in Abilene.
You take on many leadership roles in the Abilene community. What do you think makes a good leader?
I would say the ability to listen, to delegate responsibility and to have a passion for the project.
Why do you think it’s important to give back to your community?
I firmly believe that we all have been given gifts and talents that we have a responsibility to use to improve the life around us. We have received much from our communities, and to give back is to be a good citizen.
What’s your life’s philosophy?
My philosophy is shaped by my Christian belief that life is a gift, and that it is good; and it is best shared through a servant ministry to others. I have found that the older I get, the deeper my faith is but the fewer beliefs I have. I trust that we are all in the hands of a loving God, who through Jesus shows us the way we are to try and live with love and respect for each other to make the world a safer and better place for all.
What quote do you find most meaningful to you right now?
I find in our present, crazy and chaotic world, the words of Julian of Norwich — written in the 14th century — most comforting: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”