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Deeply loyal to WSU, Joan S. Beren gave generously to help it flourish

Joan Beren's children and grandchildren
Joan Beren’s children and grandchildren dedicated a bench in her name at the Plaza of Heroines on her 69th birthday – Aug. 16, 1998. Pictured l-r: Ellen Beren holding Samuel Beren, Nancy Beren, Julie Platt, Adam Beren holding Sophie Beren, and Amy Bressman.

Wichita State University has had few friends more devoted and committed to the university’s success than Joan S. Beren.

A fine arts enthusiast, a baseball and basketball fan, and a champion of students, Ms. Beren shared her resources and her time to help advance all three at Wichita State. Her death in January creates a void felt not only on campus, but across the community.

“Anyone who spent even a few minutes in Joan’s presence felt keenly her spirit and her love of life,” said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation. “Her family and her faith brought great joy to her, but she also had a special place in her heart for Wichita State. We will miss her in so many ways.”

Ms. Beren, who returned to school after her youngest child left for college, earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wichita State in 1983. She went on to endow a generous fellowship for graduate students in that program. In the late 1990s, she took a strong interest in the campaign to create the Plaza of Heroines on the WSU campus, providing the lead gift for the project. Her family honored her by dedicating a bench in her name.

She also contributed generously to a fund to maintain Wichita State’s outdoor sculptures. Her passion for art led her to support many of WSU’s cultural initiatives, including the restoration of the Joan Miró mosaic on the façade of the Ulrich Museum of Art, the commissioning of the Tom Otterness sculpture titled “Millipede” and many Ulrich art exhibitions.

Ms. Beren also supported WSU athletics. Her love of the Shockers spread to three generations of family, creating fans as far away as New York, California and Texas. She also donated to capital projects such as the Marcus Welcome Center, the president’s home addition and the Rhatigan Student Center renovation.

In addition to sharing her financial resources, Ms. Beren devoted her time and energy to Wichita State, serving two terms on the WSU Board of Trustees, including one as its chairman, as well as on the WSU Foundation National Advisory Council and the advisory boards for the Ulrich Museum and the College of Fine Arts. The WSU Foundation recognized Ms. Beren’s commitment to Wichita State in 2000 by awarding her the Fairmount Founders’ Award. A life member of the WSU Alumni Association, Ms. Beren also received the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Wichita Chapter in 2005.

Ms. Beren, who was born in Ohio, contributed generously to her synagogue and community. She was the first female president of the Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation and was an active member of the Wichita Art Museum, Wichita Center for the Arts, Hebrew Congregation and League of Women Voters. Ms. Beren had four children, 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.