Merrie Beckham, A.B.C. '86
There can be no more fitting selection for the inaugural recipient of the Alumni by Choice of the Year award than Merrie Beckham, who was awarded Baylor’s first A.B.C. decree by then-Chancellor Abner McCall and then-President Herbert H. Reynolds in 1986.
Beckham, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, met Sparkey Beckham, B.B.A. ’49, while she was working at Standard Oil Co. in San Francisco and he was stationed at a nearby U.S. Air Force base.
“I got a note from my aunt in Texas, saying there was a young man coming from Lamesa, Texas, and he wanted to know some people in California,” Merrie says. “He looked terrific in his uniform. We started dating, and he’s a very persuasive man. It was a fun romance.”
“There’s not a day that Baylor doesn’t affect our lives in a wonderful way.”
Their first date was to the 1953 Cal football season opener against a school of which Merrie had never heard. Cal was a three-time defending conference champion, but the Baylor Bears whipped the Cal Bears, 26-0. Sparkey’s love of Merrie and her love of Baylor both began that day.
The couple married and moved to Texas after Sparkey completed his military service. They spent seven years in Lamesa before settling in Dallas. Three of their children and several grandchildren have attended Baylor.
“When we moved to Dallas, our house was near a Baylor girl Sparkey knew,” Merrie says. “In two weeks, we had a group of friends. That’s what Baylor does.”
The Beckhams are active members of Park Cities Baptist Church, where Merrie was instrumental in beginning North Texas’ first Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, which encourages women and supports them as they navigate motherhood.
“A lot of women come into the cities with their husbands, who are working and traveling,” Merrie says. “They are in a big city with no family, and they need help. I opened my heart of all the things that worked well in my marriage. It was my extreme pleasure to do it, and I never thought of it as work. I still keep track of a lot of the girls.”
In 2000, Merrie was selected as MOPS National Mentor of the Year — one of her many honors. She has been named Dallas Baylor Women’s Council Distinguished Person of the Year, and she is a Baylor W.R. White Meritorious Service Award recipient. Last year, Merrie and Sparkey were awarded the Russell H. Perry Free Enterprise Award from Dallas Baptist University in honor of their generous spirit and community service.
Merrie is a regular speaker at Baylor’s Alumni by Choice celebrations. The Beckhams believe so strongly in the program that they recently committed to endow its continued success. The Merrie Beckham Alumni by Choice Endowed Fund will support the work of Baylor’s Institute for Oral History to record and preserve the history of the Alumni by Choice program and its members.
“There’s not a day that Baylor doesn’t affect our lives in a wonderful way,” Merrie says. “When we meet someone from Baylor, we’re automatically friends and know each other to be wonderful people.”