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UA history professor known for humor, friendly spirit

Students and colleagues use words like humorous, warm and intellectual to describe history professor John Beeler. CW | Amy Sullivan

Alexis Winborne

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Hailing from Greensboro, North Carolina, Beeler said he was directly influenced by his historian father and was, by his own confession, “an 
academic brat.” From North Carolina, Beeler traveled to the University of Illinois for his doctorate before winding up at the University in 1993. Beeler said he considers himself lucky that he gets to do what he loves, and 
it shows.

John Young, a graduate student at the University, enrolled in Beeler’s Britain and the World Wars class in the spring of 2010, making it one of the first upper-level 
history classes he took during his undergraduate years at 
the University.

“Dr. Beeler did an excellent job of making the material accessible and interesting,” Young said. “His passion for teaching was evident from the first day and he continues to bring to the history 
department not only expertise in his field but a positive attitude and an 
excellent sense of humor.”

Young isn’t the only one who has noticed Beeler’s enthusiasm for 
his work.

“Dr. Beeler is one of the most 
generous souls I have ever met,” said James Mixson, another professor in the department of history. “He is a remarkably gifted scholar and teacher, as well as a warm and wonderful human being. I could not imagine a better friend 
and colleague.”

Beeler is known for his humor. Mr. T will often make appearances in class and in answers to questions on tests. It is no secret to the history department that goofy answer choices on tests and quizzes were trademarked by Beeler, although he might not be so quick to take ownership of it. Some of Beeler’s favorite answer choice examples are: “according to the theory of mercantilism – all trade goods had to be inspected by a man who lived in a cave north 
of Geneva.”

Beeler voluntarily cooks meals for department meetings, gatherings and parties. He opens his home to the department and graduate students a few times out of the year for a North Carolina-style barbeque cookout, affectionately named “pork-o-rama” by him and his wife. This catering has continued for 20 years.

Beeler is on sabbatical this semester and will embark on a journey to spend six weeks in Scotland, where he will explore the personal life of Admiral Sir 
Alexander Milne.

“It’s just such a warm environment here and a wonderful place to work,” Beeler said. “I could go up and down the hall and say that these are all great people, fine colleagues and friends 
as well.”

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UA history professor known for humor, friendly spirit