The George M. Beal Distinguished Lectureship in Rural Sociology was created in 2014 to celebrate and honor the life of Dr. George M. Beal, emeritus professor and former chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Dr. Beal devoted his career to addressing significant issues and trends impacting rural communities and people. He served as president of the Rural Sociological Society, and in 1982, he received their Award for Distinguished Rural Sociologist. The intent of the lectureship is two-fold: to recognize and honor the life-long contributions of Professor George M. Beal to the creation and prominence of the ISU Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and to extend Dr. Beal’s legacy by enhancing teaching, research, and extension programs in rural sociology at Iowa State University.
A generous lead gift of $25,000 was made by Don and Joye Dillman to create the George M. Beal Lectureship in Rural Sociology Fund. Don received his Masters in rural sociology in 1966 and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1969, both from Iowa State University. Joye received her master’s degree in family environment at ISU in 1969. With the generosity of the Dillmans and many other alumni who have contributed to the fund, the lectureship is now endowed and will be sustained through earned interest income from the endowment and additional contributions. Funds from the endowment are used exclusively to sponsor an annual lecture from a distinguished rural social scientist/scholar whose work addresses rural transformations and issues impacting rural America and Iowa.
Invited lecturers give a university lecture open to the public and lead more focused discussions and seminars to the faculty, staff, and students. The annual lectures bring increased visibility to the important work of rural sociologists and stimulate faculty, staff, and students to contemplate and formulate research, extension, and teaching activities designed to help improve the quality of living among rural people. The following distinguished scholars have visited Iowa State University for the George M. Beal Lectureship in Rural Sociology:
- 2022 – Dr. Michael Carolan, Colorado State University, “Not the ‘Whole Picture’: Reimagining Food Systems to Account for What We Don’t Know”
- 2021 – Dr. Heith Copes, University of Alabama—Birmingham, “Good Bad People: A Photo-Ethnography of Methamphetamine Use in Rural Alabama”
- 2019 – Dr. John Major Eason, University of Wisconsin—Madison, “In Our Backyards: How the Prison Boom Transformed Rural America”
- 2018 – Dr. Phil Howard, Michigan State University, “Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Meat Processing Industry”
- 2017 – Dr. John Iceland, Pennsylvania State University, “Portrait of America: How Demographic Change and Economic Inequality are Reshaping Society”
- 2016 – Dr. Linda Lobao, Ohio State University, “The Geography of Inequality: Local Governments and Community Well-Being Across America”
- 2014 – Dr. Claude Fisher, University of California, Berkeley, “Rural Life, Rural Iowa, and the Making of American Character”
As Dr. Beal noted in his 2003 address at the Department of Sociology reunion, “…if we are really honest with ourselves, we accomplish very few things as individuals on our own. There are always those individuals, situations, and factors that push us into situations that provide opportunities for us to succeed. In addition to that there is always the goddess of serendipity that helps us along the way.”
If you would like to contribute to the George M. Beal Lectureship in Rural Sociology, you may either contact the ISU Foundation at 866.419.6768 or visit the online donor page here.