Parkersburg, W.Va. native Charles Beorn arrived at West Virginia University in 1959 for his freshman year of college with only one goal in mind—going to medical school.
“I was a bookworm. I got a great education because that’s what I went there for. I came to study and do what I needed to do to get accepted to medical school. I wasn’t going to socialize or party,” said Beorn (A.B. Pre-Medicine, 1963). “I wanted to make good grades and study and learn. I wanted to learn everything I could. Those other things could come later once I reached my goal of going to medical school.”
His 45-year career in internal medicine began in the small town of Anspach, Germany, where he spent three years as an Army medical doctor during the Vietnam War. After returning to the United States, Beorn started his own practice.
“I was a solo practitioner—I ran my own business. I did it my way. I didn’t have a corporation to brow beat me to do things that were only for making money rather than taking care of patients,” Beorn said. “Lots of practitioners get fired because they aren’t making overhead. I am glad I was my own boss and didn’t have to deal with that.”
Beorn reflects that over the course of his career, the broad liberal arts education he received at WVU prepared him to manage his own practice and better communicate with patients.
“As a physician, a well-rounded education gives you appreciation for your patients. You can relate to them and show interest in them and interact with them. Otherwise, it is difficult to talk outside of your field,” Beorn said. “A broad education enables your ability to communicate with people, especially the more well-rounded you are.”
A pre-medicine major at WVU, Beorn took advantage of the program’s flexible liberal arts curriculum, taking classes in everything from English and history to philosophy and political science.
“Back then, pre-med didn’t have many credit hours in one particular subject. It was a wonderful curriculum. It provided all of the requirements for medical school like chemistry, physics, biology and anatomy, but the last two years were nearly all electives,” Beorn said. “I always enjoyed having a broad education. I was not interested in pure science—I wanted a lot of humanities courses.”
His favorite course was a year-long humanities class that he completed as a junior.
“It was the best course I had at WVU because it was multidisciplinary. It covered all the arts and sciences,” Beorn said. “They brought in visiting faculty from other universities to give lectures and discussions on subjects like philosophy, English and history. It was truly an outstanding course.”
Beorn also has fond memories of a Shakespeare course traditionally taken by upper division English students.
“My adviser discouraged me from taking it, but good grades were not as important to me as having a good basic education. I took courses that challenged me,” Beorn said. “If you just study pure science from day one until you graduate, it will be nothing but courses taught in that field. Your appreciation of life and other areas of the world will be somewhat limited. The more you can be enlightened or at least have exposure to various courses in the University, the more well-rounded you will be when you finish.”
That liberal arts experience motivated Beorn to establish scholarships supporting the humanities and liberal arts.
The Leanne Wade Beorn Endowed Scholarship, named for Beorn’s wife, supports English undergraduate students from West Virginia. The Leanne Wade Beorn and Charles Frederick Beorn Endowed Scholarship supports West Virginia residents studying the humanities. The Governor A.I. Boreman Endowed Scholarship, named for the first governor of West Virginia whose granddaughter, Mary Boreman Cotton, is Leanne’s distant aunt, supports Eberly College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate students from West Virginia.
“I chose to give through scholarships because the state of West Virginia has a lot of students who might not be able to go to college without financial help. I was more interested in helping students who needed help so they could get an education,” Beorn said. “I didn’t want people who were qualified who would go on to be leaders in their community to not to be able to go to (WVU) because they didn’t have the funds.”
To learn more about Eberly College scholarships, visit eberly.wvu.edu/students/current-students/scholarships.
This donation was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. Conducted by the WVU Foundation, the fundraising effort will run through December 2017.