Dr. Ronald Becht, 57, vice president of graduate and professional studies, died March 2, 2002, after being diagnosed with cancer less than a month earlier. Becht was a passionate component of the administration and a leader for his colleagues as well as his family. He joined Cabrini on Sept. 1, 1999, after a national search. His dreams, motivations and leadership caused a dramatic growth in the graduate and professional studies division. It was his dream to see Cabrini as a wireless campus. He played an instrumental role in the recent agreement to outsource Cabrini’s technology-related services with Drexel University.
“He died at the height of his career,” President Antoinette Iadarola said at the memorial mass on March 11, 2002, in the Bruckmann Chapel. It was the first day back from spring break when members of the administration, faculty, staff and family and friends of Becht came together to reflect on the story of his life.
“He has made a difference to this college in such a small time,” Iadarola said. “He was the glue that held us together at times.” Iadarola read aloud some of the comments that coworkers had passed on to her about their experiences with Becht. “I always knew I could count on you. I miss your hearty laugh and smile,” one coworker wrote. “He gave a lot of himself,” another wrote, “I always sensed he was a man of peace.” Though Becht’s presence is greatly missed, his coworkers will continue in the direction to fulfill prior dreams and goals set by the department.
The growth that Becht brought to Cabrini was not only in factual data of numbers, reports, programs and admissions, but also in the people touched by him daily.
“What he most loved about life was people,” Iadarola said. He helped coworkers find confidence in themselves and helped them to question life and not just to sit back and watch and wonder.
Becht had a “phenomenal” sense of humor. He was someone that many people waited to see every morning.
“If there was laughter he heightened it,” Dr. Martin Sharp said, of the graduate and professional studies department. “He was always willing to reach out to others. He was a renaissance man. The Jesuit-Georgetown background showed. He believed God’s work could be done during this time,” Sharp said. “He was an exceptional individual.”
Becht brought over 20 years of experience in higher education to Cabrini. Prior to Cabrini, he served as the vice president for academic affairs and academic dean at Loras College in Dubuque Iowa. Before his work at Loras, he was vice president at Marian College of Fond du Lac in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He also served as an academic dean at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, the assistant to the chairman of the department of English and the assistant dean of the graduate school at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Becht had direct responsibility in supervising graduate and non-traditional programs at each institution.
Prior to his administrative work, Becht taught for many years at Marquette University, the University of Connecticut and Carnegie Mellon University.
Becht was born in San Angelo, Texas. He received a bachelor of arts degree in English and classical studies from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in English language and literature from the University of Chicago and a doctorate degree in English from the University of Connecticut. Becht was an expert on nineteenth-century British literature. He was a scholar with a passion for literature and it was a passion that lived with him the length of his life.
Becht is survived by his wife, Sherry Becht, and his three children, Matthew R. Becht of Arlington, VA; Penelope Becht O’Connell and son-in-law Michael of Newark, DE; and Joseph R. Becht of Emmitsburg, MD.
Joseph Becht, the youngest of the three children, remembered his father’s death like his life. “He was a man who died in the same manner that he lived . . . in a quiet, gentle grace.”